Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference re-launched our partnership with MAPS (Montessori Autism Programs and Services) in mid-September as a weekly outreach opportunity. Feedback from the trained team of Peer Mentors shows that the beneficiaries of their work is not limited to the clients served by the MAPS programs... Peer Mentors reported that they have a ton of fun playing games and making friends with their peers while they complete their volunteer shifts.
Check out our video to hear about some of the Peer Mentor experiences firsthand:
Previously, Hands4Hope has assisted MAPS with projects like improving the garden and providing games and enhancements to the peer mentoring program. Now, through the Hands4Hope Community Engagement Program, 17 participants trained to become Peer Mentors, and regularly participate in 5 weekly or biweekly sessions. They have collectively provided 76 service hours and filled 101 shifts in the first month and a half of the program!
One of the things MAPS offers is social skills groups for clients ages 8-18+ who are experiencing challenges navigating peer relationships and coping with day-to-day social dilemmas. Peer Mentors are able to act as an "expert" who can model peer relationships and provide gentle guidance. By developing true friendships at the social skills groups, a trust develops between the Peer Mentors and the MAPS clients. Plus, many Peer Mentors see the friends they make through these groups at the schools they attend or elsewhere in the community, providing a friendly bridge to help clients further develop their social skills.
"All the volunteers have been super great," says Kayle Torres, MAPS Clinical Supervisor. "They've come in and jumped in with a whole new group of peers. It's been a really good partnership."