The Caring Force Blog July Workforce Hero: Vera Carducci

| Caroline O'Neill

The Caring Force is pleased to announce that our next TCF Hero Spotlight honoree is Vera Carducci, a Case Manager/Mentor at NAFI Massachusetts.

Vera had previously worked for an immigration attorney for 15+ years, where she found her love for human services. She decided to put herself through school to become a case manager at NFI where she can devote her time to helping those in need.

Tell us about your background. How did you decide to pursue a career in human services? 

I worked for an immigration attorney for 15+ years. A majority of my day was spent just helping the clients navigate through systems and processes so their lives were running smoothly, so then they’d be able to focus on fighting their immigration case. I loved seeing the changes in clients when something that felt insurmountable to them got addressed and fixed. Their confidence and concentration would improve. Little did I know at the time I was witnessing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in real time. I really loved that part of the job and, honestly, it wasn’t supposed to be part of my job, I’d have to do my real job, all the legal work, late at night. So I decided to try to get a job that let me do the parts that I liked. Well, I found out I needed a bachelor’s degree to get that job, so I worked full time and off to night school I went for 3 years (my family was so supportive, they ate BLT sandwiches for dinner 4 nights a week and never complained). I graduated at 47 years old and about 2 weeks after I graduated I was fortunate to get a job with NFI and I have been there ever since. I still pinch myself sometimes because I really get to do what I love for work every day.

What is your favorite professional memory? 

I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but it is the most important memory I have. I had only worked in this field for about 2-3 months, a real newbie, and had a client suffering from a deep depression. I was trying so hard to work with her, get her up and out and doing something and one day, in a fit of anger and desperation, while sobbing, she mimicked the things I was saying to her back to me and I realized what a jerk I must have sounded like to her. My intentions were good but my methods were all wrong. It was a HUGE game changer for me. I realized working with clients has nothing to do with getting them to follow your directions or advice, it’s all about taking the time to learn about them, what they need or what they feel they are capable of at the time and then assisting them in any way possible to navigate them to where they need to be to reach their goals.

It’s been a year since the pandemic arrived, how have you coped with the challenges? 

I coped with the challenge by asking, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object in an everchanging universe? I did some assessment and the equation came down to asking my employer for permission to keep going out there and meeting with clients versus begging for forgiveness when they found out I was still going out there. After some pretty intense conversations (my employer) and begging (me), I got to keep going out there, safely. Many of my coworkers felt the same way. We knew the day to day lives of many of the clients were not made any easier due to the pandemic. These were people in a crisis with kids that only get services in the community when they go to school, so the suffering and chaos was more confounded. Assessment and assistance remotely just didn’t fit the needs, so we kept going out and working with some higher-need clients that still wanted to meet. Some clients still met remotely but a majority of them needed that person-to-person connection. I was so fortunate to have a Program Director that recognized the need, other staff members that also wanted to keep going out there and we were fortunate to work for a company that was agreeable to assist us to be able to still be out there safely.

Thank you so much to Vera and all of our wonderful human services workers who bring joy and passion to work every day! We are so thankful for your efforts and for making the Commonwealth a better place.

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