At the beginning of 2018, Eric was sleeping on his mother’s living room floor; his infant son was sleeping beside him in a portable crib. After living nearly 10 years in American Samoa, where he had worked primarily as a network engineer, Eric had just moved back to New York.
For 30 years, he had held a variety of tech-related jobs, including during his three years in the U.S. Army, which he joined days after graduating from Lehman High School in the Bronx. Despite looking diligently, Eric was having a hard time finding a job back home, and he was getting the impression that local employers in his field were “looking for a younger crowd.”
Eric turned to Westchester County DSS for assistance, and they offered him the opportunity to participate in the Community Work Experience Program (CWEP) that places clients receiving public assistance in nonpaying internships with nonprofits. He eagerly accepted the offer and was placed in an administrative job in the facilities department at Westhab.
“If you are willing to learn, I will teach you.” -Vlad
Vlad Nesterchuck, Westhab’s facilities manager, first met Eric when he was diligently attending to his CWEP duties—answering phones, doing data entry, and creating work orders—at Westhab’s Yonkers headquarters. Noticing that Eric was smart, motivated, and eager to learn, Vlad and Alex Berisha, Westhab’s director of facilities, decided to give Eric a chance and offered him a superintendent job in charge of two Westhab properties in Yonkers. Vlad and Alex also knew that Eric needed a place to live, and the job came with an apartment. Eric “ jumped at the opportunity.”
“I love my apartment. It is much more than a place to live, it is my home.” -Eric
When Eric moved into his new apartment his son was 15 months old. According to Eric, “The first night in the apartment, my son was a little anxious about being in a new place. The second night, my son slept all night like he’s never slept before. My son is always happy now. He never wakes up at night anymore. It’s awesome.” In September 2018, Eric’s wife moved to the U.S. from Samoa, and now the whole family, including a second son, is living together.
Things are also going well at work where Eric is in charge of 49 units at two Westhab properties. The jump from network engineer to super might have been hard for some, but it was an easy transition for Eric, who describes himself as someone who is good with his hands, and who likes to read technical manuals for fun. According to Eric, “I love to figure things out—whether it is a broken Excel formula or a cranky boiler.”
While Eric loves his new job and his new life in New York, he is nevertheless nostalgic when remembering his time in the Samoan islands. The thing he misses the most is the people, whom he describes as “humble and kind.” But it helps that the people at Westhab remind him of Samoans in that way. In Eric’s words, “The people at Westhab are beautiful. They gave me a chance and have taught me so much.”
Eric considers his biggest accomplishments to be his family and the fact that the management team at Westhab is happy with the quality of his work. He is also proud of the positive impact he is having on his tenants by keeping his buildings’ systems up-to-date and running smoothly. According to Eric, Westhab is serious about changing people’s lives, and he is proud to be a part of that. After all, he adds, “Westhab certainly changed my life.”