Man becomes part of the clan through host family program
Natalie Hamilton

While apart for 32 years, when Gerald Cummings touched his arm, it became clear to Dave Hussey his friend was excited to see him.

The men were classmates who drifted apart after graduating high school.

Dave went on to marry his girlfriend, Hester, and have two daughters, settling in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Gerald, living in Kamloops at the time, continued to spend his life travelling from foster home to foster home all over British Columbia.

While Dave, who is deaf, recalled Gerald being deaf as well, he was surprised to learn Gerald had become blind at 21. Dave was also shocked by how Gerald’s communication skills had declined.

After discussing the situation with Hester, who is also deaf, the couple approached Gerald and his support worker about being his host family. Fifteen years have passed and the term “fostering” doesn’t really suit the relationship between the Husseys and Gerald, Hester says.

“We really love each other and cherish what we have,” Hester says.

“A strong bond has developed. It’s almost like he’s my son. We have a family and they support him and love him too,” she adds.

The Husseys reached out to Gerald initially because they felt they could provide him with an improved quality of life.

“Before Gerald lived with us he had such a lack of communication,” Dave says. “Because we are the same and have the same deaf culture I can understand his needs and that’s really the best part.”

Dave says he can also appreciate what it’s like to be deafblind.

While Gerald initially stayed in his room when he moved in with Husseys, in time, he began to socialize. Hester notes they made modifications to their house, such as rearranging furniture, to create a safe environment for Gerald and to promote independence.

Gerald probably used about 20 basic signs to communicate back then and now utilizes between 100 and 200, Hester notes. “Gerald was really a good match for us.”

When the Husseys reflect on the past 15 years, they consider Gerald as an addition to their family. Hester says it’s important for others considering being a host family to have compassion at the root of their motivation.

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