Stories from Maine Workers - Philemon Dushimire, Orono

Stories from Maine Workers – Philemon Dushimire, Orono

PhilemonI came to Maine five years ago after fleeing from my native country of Burundi where I had worked as a judge for the local government. Even though I have a law degree from my home country, I had to start over in Maine. I now work two jobs as a direct support professional for mentally challenged individuals. I enjoy the help I provide to my clients in both jobs and it is a rewarding feeling being able to help improve someone’s life. Though the work is not without some risk and frustration since there are times when clients are having a tough day and could harm themselves or me.

In my first job work the overnight shift making $10 an hour. I have to commute for my work so I need a car. Loan payments on the car, along with rent, add up quickly. Even though my pay is higher than the minimum wage, it’s not a living wage and I had to take on my second job to help cover basic expenses. I now work 80 hours a week, but even then it sometimes feels hard to keep my head above water. Sometimes I can work overtime and get paid for it, but it’s not guaranteed.

Devoting so much time to my work has meant that other important things have fallen to the wayside. I want to continue my education in Maine so that I can return to the kind of work that I did in my home country, but it is difficult to find extra time to devote to studies. At this point in my life I can’t make ends meet working only one job. If I could afford to work one job, I feel my life would change considerably. I would have time to continue my education and plan for other long term projects in my life.

I believe that Maine has opened the door to many opportunities for me, but I feel that I cannot take advantage of them when I am putting so much time towards working paycheck to paycheck.