Hi, my name is Therese LaPorte. I am a person with disabilities and I have been a member of the Peer Support Advisory Committee for three years. Peer support is a group of about 8-10 members who meet two times a month to support each other any way we can. If you would like to make a change in your life, but don’t know how, we support each other to do that. There are always opportunities for change if you will work hard at it and peer support can help.
At Peer Support:
—We accept everyone who wants to join us.
—We respect everyone and their opinions.
—We listen to each other and we work as a team to get things done.
—We are all friends.
—We help and encourage each other the best that we can.
Right now, I am learning about responsibility, self-advocacy, and leadership. If you say you want to help people, then you have to be responsible, follow through and help them. To me, self-advocacy means to help people who do not have the courage to speak up for themselves. Leadership means being a leader and doing things even if you are afraid to do it. Encouraging independence means to encourage people to be independent and do what they want in their lives instead of always doing what other people say they have to do.
We are starting a Speakers Bureau soon. We have been working to put together the presentation. We are planning to use role-play as well as telling our own stories to explain how peer support works. Our first meeting is going to be at Coastal Connections. Our plans are to make sure that younger people are aware that there are programs out there to help them and that they do not have to face hard stuff alone.
I really enjoy being part of the Peer Support Advisory Committee and being able to help others. I believe it is very important work. We might learn differently, but we all want to be treated like everyone else.
If you would like to learn more about The Arc of Greater Haverhill’s Peer Support Advisory Committee or the Greater Haverhill Self Advocates Group, please contact Barbara Pandolfi at 978-373-0552 ext. 206. You can also join our new ‘Speak Up in the Merrimack Valley’ Facebook group to connect with other people with disabilities.