In Person Profile: Laura
05 Jul, 2014
The Sou’Wester was pleased to sit down with Laura, one of MSCM’s first volunteers who started in 1999 and has stayed with us actively throughout the years, offering her experience and knowledge to those in need.
Q. Thank you Laura. How did you get involved with MSCM in the first place?
A. I was working at the downtown YMCA as a counselor in a Community Residential Centre (CRC), a halfway house for ex-prisoners from the federal and provincial detention centres. When it closed in its capacity as a halfway house, we were mandated to open a day program. One of our new employees, who was already volunteering with MSCM, began to speak to me about the work Peter Huish was doing, especially about Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA). This sounded very interesting and I made further inquiries, met with Peter and decided to join the ranks.
Q. You are very active with our CoSA Project and have participated in many Circles. Have you seen any changes over the years?
A. There are many more Circles today than when I first started in 2000. This indicates that more inmates are made aware of this type of help available when they are released. I think this is excellent because research has shown that Circles do work with as much as 83% less recidivism. As well, there are many more Circle volunteers today which means that the community is taking a greater interest in helping these individuals who need so much support. This shows true community spirit.
Q. Do you have a success CoSA story to tell our readers?
A. It is difficult for me to pick just one story because many Circle Core Members have continued to be contributing members of society, some over 20 years. There are many success stories.
Q. You also participate in our new SHU (Special Handling Unit) program. Do you feel you are helping those incarcerated under these circumstances?
A. Yes, I do believe we help these individuals. We are part of what is known as “The Good Lives Model”, a program that emphasizes the positive qualities of the inmate rather than the perceived risk he represents to society. We offer them a new experience of community, simply because, in many cases, we are the only people they see other than CSC personnel. One of the participants I visit has had no outside contact for nearly 14 years. He talks about his favorite books, the sports he enjoys, the movies he has seen, the French course he is taking, world history, among other topics. I feel privileged to be a part of this innovative program.
Q. What has kept you continuing to volunteer with MSCM?
A. I have always had a desire to help individuals who have any kind of altercation with the law. These individuals need to be accepted and supported no matter what they have done because they are human beings. I believe everyone is entitled to the opportunity to get the help they need to be pro-social citizens.
Q. Would you like to pass on any experience to our newer volunteers?
A. First of all, I want to thank our newer volunteers for joining MSCM. This shows that there are citizens out there who care. Just be yourself and enjoy what you do. Those you help will greatly appreciate that someone accepts and supports them, does not judge them, but, instead, treats them as rightful citizens.
I also want to add to never give up on some individuals who may have a weak moment or re-offend because nobody is perfect. Just be there for them when they come back into the community. They will need your support even more.
Lastly, your volunteering with MSCM is the best example to others in the community. You are the promoters of MSCM and be proud.