By Shaun Hall
Rich Enuol manages a brain injury home in Westfield, Mass., for the Berkshire County Arc. But he spent the first half of his life in the jungle without ever seeing a light switch, money, or packaged food.
“We traded rice for salt,” he said. “For protein we caught and ate insects, lizards, and animals.” The list of animals included monkeys and elephants.
Rich was raised as a member of the Degar people, an indigenous tribe in Vietnam that has dwindled from millions down to hundreds. His mother died at a young age, and he was raised, with his three siblings, by their aunt and uncle in an isolated village.
Eventually evacuated to a Cambodian refugee camp for two years, where he first experienced modern plumbing, Rich spent his time learning English from an American at the camp. Through a complex web of support systems, Rich made it to Washington State, was granted political asylum, and studied on his own. He pursued human service-related jobs.
“I grew up in a village, where all we knew was to help each other out,” Rich explained. “So I had a feeling this was the kind of work I should do.”
He attended college in North Carolina, met and married a woman from Connecticut, and worked in the non-profit sector.
“I grew up in a village where all we knew was to help each other out. So I had a feeling this was the kind of work I should do.”
“It took a long time to look around and find the right place for me,” he said, as he described his journey to BCArc. “I knew pretty quickly when I landed here that this was the place for me,” he said.
He started his career at BCArc as a floater, moving from site to site, before getting offered a promotion. “I was ready for a real challenge, I knew it would be tough,” he said. “My vision for helping people and BCArc’s vision align. We strive together to do the best we can for the people we serve. This is the first place I have felt that.” He continued his list: “They pay more. They help you reach your goals and potential, and they match you where you belong with appropriate co-workers.”
Granted citizenship in 2013, his three siblings live in North Carolina, where he and his wife visit them when they can.