Featuring: Barba Kargbo, Housekeeping Aide, Potomac Falls Health and Rehabilitation Center

In 1991, a brutal civil war began sweeping through Sierra Leone. It would last eleven years—forcing tens of thousands from their homes, and creating a new wave of immigrants into the United States. Barba Kargbo was part of this wave.

Barba Kargbo (second from right)

Barba was 9 years old in 2002, when he came with his family to settle in Woodridge, Va. He entered fourth grade at Woodbridge Elementary school and from then on, life moved forward much like that of his classmates. English is the official language of Sierra Leone and is spoken in schools, so Barba had language on his side. And he had athletic talent. Basketball was never as popular as football in Sierra Leone, but NBA superstars were, and Barba played basketball. And he played it well enough to earn a place on Woodbridge High School’s all-time roster, and well enough to play AAU basketball, traveling the country for Team Virginia.

Basketball was his passion, and through it, Barba learned a lot about the value of teamwork. He learned to respect his teammates and their roles, and to trust that they would do their jobs. He learned to lead through enthusiasm, encouragement and an example of hard work. And he always let his team know he had their backs.

Barba brought that spirit of teamwork with him when he came to work at Potomac Falls Health and Rehab Center last year. “I love basketball,” says Barba, “but going forward, I want to make sure my family is OK. I needed a job, and they gave me a chance. And since then, I’ve been doing all I can to make sure this facility is doing well; especially when it comes to environmental services. I take pride in what I’m doing.”

Barba says he will do whatever he needs to, but he certainly isn’t doing it for the money. “When I came to Potomac Falls, people welcomed me with love.” Barba explained. “Working with older people, is like helping your mom or dad or grandma. Some parents give you rewards, but you don’t do the job for that. You do it because you love helping people—love seeing people happy with a smile on their face; enjoying themselves, enjoying life. Patients around here are like friends and family. We talk, we share memories and sometimes I bring my son here. They love him very much.”

Turns out that teamwork is one of the five key caregiver qualities Ceca Foundation recognizes through its Ceca Award Program—along with empathy, humor, integrity and professionalism.

“Caregivers can never get enough recognition or appreciation for their efforts,” noted Nate Hamme, President of Ceca Foundation. “It’s why we look to honor caregivers who do exceptional work in their healthcare communities. Not all caregivers have medical training. Some of the best, like Barba, are in support roles that make a huge impact on the experience and satisfaction of those entering our nation’s care centers.”

And that’s why Barba, a housekeeping aide, was a Ceca Award Honoree at Potomac Falls Health and Rehab, and was a finalist for Ceca’s Annual Award this year.

One of the key nominations Barba received was from a family member who recounted her story. “The bed in my son’s room got stuck on the uppermost position with a camel hump in the lower part. The control was not working and my son could not get into bed. Barba came by and saw the problem, ran and got a screwdriver, took the motor apart, fixed the bed and saved the day.”

For Barba this is more than just a job. He is working with the opportunity they’ve given him. Every day you can find him checking on rooms, making sure linens are clean, and the elevators work smoothly. “I work the evening shift, and all upper management is gone.” Barba explains. “Fixing equipment is not in my job description, but I’m handy with tools so they pull me aside and say, ‘hey, can you fix this?’ So I did, and made sure the resident was in bed with no problems.”

Barba was also nominated for his infectious enthusiasm in the Resident v. Staff Bowling Tournament. “He came as a bowler but stayed to help organizers load extra wheelchairs into the cars, and move residents about. When a thunderstorm broke, Barba off-loaded oxygen tanks, readied wheelchairs and made frightened residents laugh to take their minds off the lightning strikes and looming tornado warnings. He got everyone safely to their rooms, and then went back to work…soaked to the bone. Barba was and is our superhero.”

Barba is the ultimate team player, and respects that quality in his co-workers. “My boss will always trust my judgement and trust me to do what I have to do every day. And he will question if something goes wrong. Teamwork. The nurses and staff—everybody wants to work together in this facility to make it run.”

When asked what advice he would give to others in his position, Barba doesn’t hesitate, “Accept your role, whatever it is, and do what you have to do. Make sure this is more than just a job, and everything else will fall into place. Smile and have fun with it…Don’t be afraid to ask for help or speak your mind. Don’t take things too personally…there will be another day. Just focus and do your thing whatever that is.”

To schedule an interview with one of our featured caregivers, contact us at prinquiries@cecafoundation.org.