A Lasting Friendship



They said it wouldn’t last. But what started out as a temporary placement for Carmen, a woman living with intellectual and developmental disabilities who had spent much of her life at California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital, has become the first, longest and most successful match at California MENTOR. Just four years after California MENTOR opened its first FHA program in Kern County, Yusuf welcomed Carmen into his home for what they both anticipated would be a short stay. That was 1997. Fast forward sixteen years later, Carmen and Yusuf consider each other family, and Carmen is thriving.


Since moving in with Yusuf, Carmen has made great strides, in part because she has benefited from living in a smaller environment where she gets one-on-one attention. “I like coming home because it’s calmer here,” says Carmen.


With Yusuf’s encouragement, Carmen embraced her Native American heritage and began making jewelry, a skill she learned from her mother. Carmen likes to shop at local craft stores, buying the beads she uses in her jewelry. She carefully matches beads and stones that complement each other by color and size, and she customizes her jewelry to match her outfits. She also gives her jewelry as gifts to special people in her life.  She has received such positive feedback from everyone who sees her work that she is even considering selling her jewelry at local fairs.


Both Yusuf and Carmen credit the support they receive from California MENTOR as one of the reasons their relationship has been so successful. They regularly participate in events hosted by the Kern FHA program, including Mentor nights and holiday parties.


“My coordinator Barbara comes to visit me five hours every week,” says Carmen. “Sometimes we go to buy beads, sometimes we visit the neighbors and sometimes we just sit and talk.”


“I’m lucky to have Carmen in my life,” says Yusuf. And from the smile on her face, you can tell Carmen feels the same way, too.