BLUFFTON — The caregivers at the Mennonite Home Communities Willow Ridge Green House homes are not like typical State Tested Nursing Assistants. Known as Shahbazim, these caregivers say their experience at Willow Ridge is like no other.
The need for Shahbazim in Bluffton began when the first two Green House homes were built in Ohio: The Frieda and Betty House. Built in 2012, these homes were modeled after the first Green House Project home built in 2004 in Tupelo, Mississippi.
The purpose behind these homes is to cause elders to feel at home through safe and living environment and through the Shahbaz’s care, love and support.
“I think the Green House model is trying to flip society on its head in a variety of ways,” said Laura Voth, CEO of Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio. “In the United States, we don’t value our elders like other cultures do and we want to remind the United States and our society of the value and beauty of the older adult.”
The Shahbazim provide the residents with home cooked meals, allowing the residents to have flexible meal times. They also wash clothes, and have the responsibility of maintaining order and cleanliness of home.
“When you have just 10 people it’s like having a house, a family,” said Voth. “The Shahbazim are like the moms and dads of the house. It’s like parents who manage talking on the phone, helping with the homework and stirring the soup on the stove. It’s like managing a house.”
Before fulfilling the role of a Shahbaz at Willow Ridge, caregivers are required to complete the 128 STNA training and complete additional encore training. Through the additional training, the Shahbazim learn the philosophy behind the Green House and their roles, go through serve safe programming to learn how to properly cook and how to maintain the home.
Because of the all of the responsibilities, Shahbazim are paid more than typical caregivers. Willow Ridge is currently hiring STNAs and Shahbazim.
Shahbaz guide Barb Lawrence has worked for Willow Ridge for more than five years and said the most rewarding aspect of her job is the relationships that she has built with elders over the years.
“I’ve gotten so much out of working here,” said Lawrence. “I enjoy doing all of the different tasks, but it’s the relationships that make it even better. I love my job and I look forward to the day that we build more homes.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews.