In Western Mass., May Institute has taken great pride and care in providing a unique residence for four elderly gentlemen with developmental and physical disabilities. All four once called Puerto Rico home.
Despite any language barriers or verbal abilities, Hector, Jose, Eli, and Sammie, still enjoy many of the comforts of Puerto Rico. They take delight in celebrating its vibrant and historic culture as well as integrating themselves in their present community.
Most evenings, the aroma of traditional Puerto Rican dishes: yellow rice and gandules
beans; or Pastalon, a lasagna-like dish in which fried sweet plantains are substituted for noodles; or Pernil, a pork with Spanish seasonings; or Mondongo, a mutton stew, makes the house feel and smell like home. Salsa, meringue, bachata or reggaeton music often plays in the background. And, when the opportunity arises, residents who are able partake in a dance or two.
Careful attention to these individuals, their daily needs, and happiness have been entrusted to a wonderful group of May staff, who are bilingual and natives of countries including Peru, El Salvador, and Puerto Rico.
“May has helped to foster a wonderful living situation for these guys. Here, we embrace and celebrate our culture every day,” said Luis Rodriguez, the home’s residential coordinator. “I’ve learned a lot from them--words, phrases, and things about my own Puerto Rican heritage--that I did not know.”
“In our culture, family is extremely important. And, they are each other’s family,” added Luis. “There is a special bond between them that is incredible to witness. Hugs are shared, a pat on the back given, and at times loving words are offered.”
Hector, Jose, Eli, and Sammie have certainly made the May, their home away from home.