Starting in March 2023, Siblings Canada will be offering direct peer-to-peer mentorship, matching siblings of people with developmental disabilities to learn from each other and find support and guidance from shared lived experience.

To learn more about the program, including its goals, we spoke to Katie MacDonald, one of the program leads.

Can you tell us who this program is designed for?

The peer mentorship program was created for adult siblings who have a brother or sister with a disability. We also welcome siblings-in-law, cousins, and other second-generation caregivers; anyone who wants to take part in the life of a person with a developmental disability.

What are the benefits of participating in the program?

There is a lot to be gained from connecting with someone with shared experience. That’s why support groups are so successful. The peer-to-peer model connects two people together in a more structured way to work toward a specific goal.

Peer-to-peer mentoring can provide a wide variety of benefits for siblings and is a valuable complement to other avenues of support offered by organizations and professional agencies.

Mentees in past programs reported an increase or significant increase in their level of awareness of these topics;

  • Creating a home for their sibling
  • Working with natural supports for their sibling and building a support network
  • Understanding the behavioural and emotional challenges of their sibling
  • Finding and maintaining employment for their sibling
  • Ensuring their siblings find meaningful opportunities to contribute to their community
  • Finding mental and emotional support for themselves and their sibling

Who should apply for mentorship?

Mentees of all ages and experience levels are looking for support from mentors. Mentees may want to discuss complex decisions surrounding things like school and work. Or they may be experiencing a significant change in life that requires a change in their level of involvement in their sibling’s care and/or to do additional future planning. Some mentees join the program with less specific goals in mind. They may simply want to feel connected to others they can relate to. All are welcome!

You’re also recruiting mentors for the program. Can you describe their role?

We are looking for mentors to volunteer their time to the program. Mentors from our past programs have gone through challenges and life changes in regards to their sibling and are particularly inspired and motivated to share their experience and what they learned with others. We have learned that being a mentor can also be mutually beneficial, as peer-to-peer support can often provide reciprocal benefits including self-reflection.

There are five specific roles that a mentor plays. Sometimes a peer mentor spends more time in one role than in the others; it all depends on what kind of support the mentee is seeking. These roles include;

  • Support – A peer mentor listens attentively, provides encouragement, and builds a trusting relationship.
  • Learn – A peer mentor asks questions to help the mentee gain clarity on the situation, helps identify their unique strengths or empower them to take action.
  • Share – A peer mentor shares their own lived experience and gives real life examples. Sharing stories of balancing care with self-care, ways of coping, learning from situations and asking for help can be a great support.
  • Inform – A peer mentor can share experience and guidance towards reliable information about developmental services or other issues of housing, employment, agency support and health services.
  • Plan – After listening to a mentee and helping identify their strengths a peer mentor may support a mentee to set goals and make plans.

To prepare mentors for their role, we provide a mandatory six-to-eight-week training program.

What is the role of the mentee?

Mentees play a very important and active role in the overall outcomes of the mentorship. It is the responsibility of the mentee to identify and share the topics and issues that are important to them with their mentor. Their needs will help direct the conversations and any subsequent goal setting or planning. Their goals and plans may be specifically related to the ways they support their sibling, or they may be more personal in nature such as developing healthy boundaries to maintain a sense of self or creating more time to improve their personal health and well-being.

How long is the program?

From start to finish the program is 8 months long. Participants can expect to connect with their mentor/mentee six to eight times throughout this period. Mentor training is an additional 6-8 weeks before the program starts.

How are mentors/mentees paired?

Interested participants are required to submit an application that includes a description of what they hope to achieve during the program. We use this assessment to match mentors and mentees based on key criteria that we review during the application process.

Some mentees may have a mentor in mind for the program, which is great! But all mentors will have to complete the mentor training before they begin the program.

Learn more

If you want to learn more about the Siblings Canada Peer Mentoring Program, attend the information session on January 19, 2023!


Ready to register as a mentor or mentee? Click the button below to get started.