Peer Mentors are people with disabilities who provide counseling and advice to other disabled people. This peer-based model provides a different viewpoint on handling life's daily challenges, one based on shared understanding and shared experiences.
Consumers of Peer Mentoring services are assigned a Peer Mentor who works one-on-one with them to establish goals to achieve independence and develop strategies to reach those goals. Once the goals are achieved, Peer Mentors help to put supports in place to guarantee continued independence. Peer Mentors also share their knowledge through providing information and referral services in response to inquiries made by the public, one-to-one counseling sessions, independent living skills training, and advocacy, whether on behalf of the consumer as an individual or as part of a group.
Peer Mentors help with any issues or topics related to living independently with a disability. Examples of common issues Peer Mentors help encounter are housing, employment, and returning to the community from a nursing home or other institutional setting. However, since Peer Mentors work with consumers on goals they set together, Peer Mentoring is by no means limited to these topics.
People seeking services may contact Alexa Mavroidis at AlexaM@ecnv.org or (703) 673-4494 or Elizabeth Kumar at ElizabethK@ecnv.org or (703) 673 4496.
People living in Loudoun County can contact Tracee Garner at TraceeG@ecnv.org or (571) 291-9550.
Who Are Peer Mentors?
Peer Mentors are people with disabilities who combine knowledge about resources and experience mentoring with their own personal experience living with disabilities.
Whether you know your goals already or work with a Peer Mentor to develop them, Peer Mentors can help you identify the resources available to you and develop problem-solving strategies to work toward your goals. Peer Mentors share mutual feelings and experiences with you, offering unique support since they’ve “been there.”
Ways A Peer Mentor Can Help
A Peer Mentor can help you to identify and use community resources and services that support your quest for a more independent lifestyle. Some issues Peer Mentors can help you with include:
• Finding an accessible living situation or applying for subsidized housing.
• Leaving a nursing home, rehab facility, or other institutional setting and returning to the community.
• Planning modifications to make your home is wheelchair accessible.
• Applying for Social Security benefits, Medicaid, food stamps, or other social services, or appealing denials.
• Searching for employment, including creating or updating resumes, practicing job interview skills, and finding and using resources for job seekers with disabilities.
• Developing a personal budget.
• Gaining the skills to hire and manage personal assistants.
• Finding opportunities to socialize with your peers, or locating accessible recreational facilities and programs in your community.
• Directing consumers to certified Travel Trainers.
Working with a Peer Mentor, you can find resources and develop skills to solve these and other disability-related issues on your own.
Peer Mentors also provide support for those adjusting to life with a disability. In addition to helping you achieve concrete goals, Peer Mentors can also work with you on:
• Developing assertiveness and communication skills, allowing you to better advocate for yourself;
• Identifying your strengths and discovering your own unique capabilities;
• Acknowledging your limitations;
• Adapting to new circumstances and expectations that result from a disability; and
• Understanding when societal attitudes and stereotypes about disability affect our self-image.
Is Peer Mentoring for You?
ECNV Peer Mentors serve all people with all disabilities, whether they are newly disabled or were born with their disabilities. We serve people with all types of disabilities. We serve people who live in nursing homes, people who are about to leave rehabilitation facilities, and people who reside in the community.
Regardless of your situation and your specific goals, Peer Mentoring has something to offer you.