Tuesday, April 17, 2018 - 01:00
Mosaic in Colorado Springs

Interview with Mary O’Higgins, Natural Support Volunteer with Mosaic’s Day Program. Mary is a local seamstress with her own business – The Straight Stitch. She has been volunteering with Mosaic for eight months and plans to continue as long as she is able.

How do you feel about the work you have done so far?

Not once have I thought to myself, ‘this is wasted time.’ I don’t feel like I’m doing anything really, but no one else seems to think that! 

When I first started bringing in Dominos no one wanted to play, but the last time we sat down and played there was a good group – I think there were eight of us! It’s not like normal game play, we make up our own rules and work with the shapes and colors, but we have a good time.

I’ll sit and talk to people and play cards or dominos. But if I miss a day, when I come back I’m greeted and people missed me. It doesn’t really matter what we’re doing on any given day or where we go, but if you told me I couldn’t come back to volunteer, I’d miss it.

Did you change your mind about anything after beginning to volunteer?

Some things I didn’t realize I thought until I started working with the people Mosaic serves.  I didn’t expect people to be as active in a lot of things – mentally and physically. I figured they would sit and put puzzles together and other sedentary things. But they’re playing sports! I just never thought about it before.

Have there been any challenges as a Natural Support Volunteer you would want others to know about before making the commitment?

I suppose if I were someone naturally impatient, that would be a challenge. I’ve never felt my patience stretched personally though – I have grandkids, so…

With HIPAA concerns, there are some things you can’t discuss. You’re only allowed as much information as is absolutely necessary. So it can be hard to understand why people act the way they act, why they are the way that they are.

There is one person I work with, a girl named Emily – if I reach out to reassure her when she’s feeling down, she gets upset because I’m invading her personal space, but someone new to the position wouldn’t know that. Everyone is unique and you have to figure out their quirks.

Did anything surprise you when you started volunteering with Day Program?

It did surprise me how self-aware some people were. Like Dustin. He tells you exactly what he’s feeling, why he’s feeling that way, and what he needs to do personally to feel better.

People with intellectual disabilities are just like everybody else, they aren’t happy all the time. I’ve had roommates that hate being around me – people with little or no personal problems – and we just don’t click. I think one person I work with doesn’t like me, but that’s just fine.

Is there anything else you would tell someone wanting to volunteer at Mosaic in this position?

I know this sounds funny, but some people just don’t enjoy spending time with others. To do this position, you have to like people. And you can’t be judgmental. The way people dress, talk, their education – people with disabilities have enough physical and social barriers without the everyday things we all deal with.

Sometimes the people Mosaic serves will say or do things that don’t represent who they are, and you can’t judge them for that.