Contributed by Mara St.Onge

Mara is a Shared Living Provider and founder of Blingja Concepts, a social enterprise which offers practical accessible tools for mindfulness, recognition of emotions in self and others. She was recently nominated for a YWCA Woman of Distinction award for her work with Blingja. We asked her to share her story. Check out Blingja Concepts website and  Facebook page.

Mara with her nomination plaque

“My Caregiver Experience”

There aren’t many opportunities in life where you can really take the time to analyze and dissect what a specific experience has done to shape your life. I am having that opportunity now to share my story as a caregiver and roommate to two women with developmental disabilities.

My husband and I have been home-sharing for the past 18 years.  We first invited Julie, to live with us in our home in our basement suite. Then six years later we invited another woman, Kori, the same time that we welcomed our second child.

It seems strange to try to differentiate how our lives were before as it is like asking someone “what was it like before you had a sibling, best friend or child?”

The first few years of living together was an intense adjustment for all of us. Before we had children it was strange to have other people depend on us for some of the most important life decisions.

Because both of the women are mostly independent it can feel foreign on both sides for us to support some of their choices and help to design a well-balanced lifestyle.

Kori and Mara 

Early in our home sharing experience, I remember thinking it was very important that I protect and control every aspect of the women’s life “for their own good”.  I realized very quickly that control and directing is not a well-respected quality in anyone and there was a lot of resistance and anger, for good reason, on the part of the women. Who was this person telling them how it should be and what was best for them? I made a conscientious decision to pick my battles and be there to offer alternate choices, but only to make blanket rules/decisions for safety. The effect was immediate. I observed each of the women make decisions that were uncomfortable to watch, but I was there to listen and suggest alternate choices. Soon, they were coming to me before they would make some of their decisions and we were able to work together to build strong, community focused lifestyles!

I have learned that supporting people with developmental disabilities is all about respect. I remind myself often that the simple saying “treat others as you want to be treated” is a true testament to building a loving, respectful relationship.

Our life with Julie and Kori is not always perfect, but neither is the relationship with my husband or children and I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world.


Are you looking for an exciting and meaningful opportunity to impact someone’s quality of life? Are you able to provide a long term supportive home? A Shared Living Provider may be the right fit for you! Our agency will offer valuable support and guidance to both you and the person served, and work to build a healthy, positive, relationship built on trust and mutual respect.

Open your heart, open your home, and blend your passion with purpose.

Please visit for more information on how to apply.


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