Host Home

Odella Found a Home and a Caring Family

Odella joined our Host Home program in September 2020. Before that, she had been in several different living situations, including with family members, church friends, and a long-term stay in a hospital. Odella, who is blind and deaf and faces physical challenges, was hesitant to meet new people and move into a private family home. Because of past experiences, she found it difficult to trust others, and because she didn’t speak English at the time—only Swahili—she was skeptical that she would find a match who would be right for her needs.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic added another layer of stress to Odella’s search for a home. However, she didn’t give up hope. Faith is very important to Odella, and she prayed that she would find an answer and a place she could call her own.

Wilson and Susan, Host Home Mentors with REM Iowa, were also praying. They hoped for a perfect match, someone they could welcome into their home and grow close to their two children, Emmanuel and Gloria. Through REM Iowa’s careful matching process, in which the needs and preferences of individuals and Mentors are comprehensively weighed in order to put individuals in the most appropriate Host Homes, Odella was matched with Susan and Wilson—who speak Swahili as their first language—and everyone soon felt a strong connection. Both Odella and her Mentors felt that their prayers had been answered.

After moving in with Wilson, Susan, Gloria and Emmanuel, Odella began to settle in to her new home and get to know her new family. However, after just six weeks in the Host Home, Odella experienced a medical emergency and needed urgent surgery. In addition to the pandemic and her adjustment to a brand new living situation, Odella now faced a frightening medical situation. But her Mentors and their children were there for her. The family rallied around Odella and supported her during this challenging time, strengthening the bond between them.

The procedure was a success, and Odella started on the road to recovery. Staff at the hospital suggested that Odella recuperate in a skilled nursing facility. But between COVID fears and Odella’s desire to recover at home, the family decided against it. Susan and Wilson recall saying, “No. She’s our family, and she’s coming home with us.” Odella was now truly part of the family.

“Having Odella in our home has been life changing,” said Susan. “We have come to know her and watch her grow as an individual in our home. Odella loves our children and our family as her own. We accept Odella as a member of our family and cannot imagine our family without her in it.”

Since then, their bond has only grown. Odella has found a home and a family who care for her as their own, and she has grown close to Emmanuel and Gloria. Over the past 10 months, Odella has also made leaps and bounds in learning English and is now able to carry on conversations with her Host Home family in the new language. She loves to take walks in the community and sit outside and enjoy the summer weather with her family members. She is also learning to become an advocate for herself. Now, Odella and her Mentors are making plans for the future, including an upcoming camping trip to Colorado.

“Although Wilson and Susan have been Mentors to Odella for only 10 months, because of their dedication, love, and compassion, an outsider would think that Odella has lived with the family her entire life,” said Erin Lucas, REM Iowa Host Home Program Director.

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