This Program Manager Celebrates 21 Years at KenCrest
Aruna Conteh lives by the philosophy that it’s not what you do but how you make people feel and that’s how he navigates his success.
By Sydney Kerelo
“In this life, it’s not what you do but how you make people feel,” says Aruna Conteh, KenCrest’s program manager in Western Montgomery County and Philadelphia.
After 21 years in the human services industry, Conteh continues to bring smiles and joy to the homes he serves. He says he has a lot of passion for helping people and loves making people smile.
According to Conteh, “Success, to me, is being able to meet people with disabilities needs and figuring out how we can best serve those with challenging behaviors. I like to see the people I support smile and have a meaningful day, and my Success is seeing the people we support to move from point A to point B.”
Conteh began his career in November 1999 at Lynch—which was shortly acquired by KenCrest—in the residential program within the Pennsylvania Chester County area. From there, he transferred over to the day program, then as assistant manager, production manager, and finally program manager.
As one of six, Conteh’s family inspired him to pursue a career in human services. His mother was a fierce businesswoman who instilled a passion for helping people into all her children. She was a strong advocator for helping those who couldn’t help themselves.
“I’ve always been passionate about helping people,” says Conteh. “My family included we all love to help people. My younger brother is an anesthesiologist in New York. My two sisters are nurse practitioners, my older brother is a doctor, and my youngest sister is an RN.”
While Conteh took a different route than his siblings, he is still helping those that can’t help themselves.
The Western Pennsylvania homes are big on community involvement, and Conteh helps facilitate that with regular trips to the park, the beach, or even the Philadelphia Zoo.
“One person in our homes has very challenging behaviors. He used to put holes in the walls, and now because of our work with him, he’s communicating,” says Conteh. “He listens now, even when he’s frustrated. He knows how to self-soothe himself because we’ve modeled that behavior for him. It’s amazing.”
Now granted, the behaviors are still there, but because of Conteh’s work, his team understands more of what behavior is and how to help the people we support manage that behavior. He strongly advocates for establishing a positive moral atmosphere where people feel respected and peaceful.
“This isn’t just a job to me,” he adds. “I care about these people, they’ve been there before me, and they’ll be there after me, but in this life, it’s not what you give to people. It’s how you make them feel, which is why I run my program the way I do.”
Not only have the people we support living in our Western Community Living Homes gained a better sense of self and community involvement thanks to Conteh, but they’ve become physically healthier.
When Conteh took over as program manager, one of the residents was 230 pounds. He was overweight and unhealthy; now, he’s 159 with a six-pack.
Additionally, Conteh helps the families of the people we support.
“[A little while ago] the father of one of the people we support texted me, ‘Do you have a minute? I need to talk to you,’” says Conteh. “I was frantic thinking what’s going on, is everything ok, etc. This man called me to tell me that he got offered a job to work in Dubai. I was the first person he called; he hadn’t even told his wife yet. He told me, ‘I want to let you know that you are an amazing man. You don’t understand what you’ve done for my son and how you have touched my life. You’re the first person I told because you mean a lot to me, and you’ve helped my son so much.’”
This sentiment only emphasizes Conteh’s belief that it’s not what you do for people but how you make them feel.