Recent graduates of Jewish Seniors Alliance’s peer support counseling training program. (photo from JSA)
On the evening of March 6, Jewish Seniors Alliance honoured the recent graduates of its peer support counseling training program with the presentation of certificates and a dinner.
Fourteen peer counselors completed the program, which consisted of 14 weeks of training for four hours on Sundays. The certificates were presented by Ken Levitt, president of JSA, and the program’s trainer, Grace Hann, and social worker, Charles Leibovitch. Hann and Leibovitch also serve as support workers for the counselors. They match them with clients and stay involved with their progress and offer help when needed.
Currently, JSA has 100 trained counselors volunteering to help isolated and/or homebound seniors. The counselors are usually seniors themselves and many have impressive education and experience in various fields.
The graduation evening began with Hann and Leibovitch welcoming everyone. This was followed by comments from Levitt and Serge Haber, founder and president emeritus. Three of the graduates – Nancy Bell, Lorraine Drossis and Tessie (Fatima) Rebello – spoke about how much they had learned during the classes. They all mentioned that learning empathy and active listening had contributed to their personal growth. They thanked Hann for her getting them involved and participating in the program and with one another.
Ruby Boychuk, senior peer counselor, offered remarks about seniors helping seniors and Nancy Bennett, another volunteer, was acknowledged for her contributions to the program.
Speakers from the community thanked JSA for the extensive help that its peer counseling offers. Dr. Beverly Pitman of United Way spoke of the significance of the program to the community and emphasized the importance of lobbying the provincial government for more funding. Shelley Rivkin of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver talked about the positive effects of the program and how it corresponded to the Jewish values of tikkun olam (repair of the world). Dorothy Leclair of Burnaby Seniors Outreach continued on the theme of the value of helping seniors and spoke about the Burnaby program.
The final speaker was Kathryn Patterson of Vancouver Coastal Health. She asked the audience to close their eyes and hold hands, then to give one another a hug. It had the effect of relaxing everyone and making them feel as if they knew one another better.
The ceremony and speakers were followed by a buffet dinner, and music and song by David and Julie Ivaz. Many of the graduates got up and danced. As they were leaving, some of the participants remarked that they had had a wonderful evening.
Shanie Levin is an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.