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Report On Peer Support Services

by Pamella Ottem

Report to the Jewish Senior’s Alliance Annual General Meeting September 9, 2015 from the Committee on Peer Support Programs.

Members of the committee are: Serge Haber, Rita Rolling, Jackie Weiler, Pamella Ottem, Charles Liebovitch and Grace Hann.

The JSA Peer Support Program delivered the following services for the May 31st, 2014-June 1, 2015.

  1. Senior Peer Counselling had one 55 hour training program educating 13 counsellors. Volunteer counsellors are then matched to clients by the program staff.
  2. Friendly Home Visiting Program had one training program, which this year was increased from 12 hours to 15 hours of training to better prepare the volunteer visitors who are then matched with clients by the program staff.Both the Senior Peer Counseling and the Friendly Visiting Program give volunteers a certificate of completion after the training session, a graduation ceremony, continuing education sessions and individual coaching by the program staff.
  1. Shalom Again or phone calls to isolated seniors.
  2. Senior Information and Referral Line which provides information about services seniors may require and how to engage them. Information is available in the Senior Line Magazine, on the JSA website, through brochures distributed at senior events and by program staff.
  3. Accompanying Seniors to attend Medical appointments.
  4. Bereavement Support Group – this program was discontinued due to lack of attendance.

Accomplishments this year have been:

  • increasing the number of clients served from 68-86
  • volunteer appreciation dinner, graduation ceremony and summer barbeque
  • partnering with other organizations to provide and advertise services for seniors
  • Ambassador program developed from receipt of a New Horizon’s grant. The committee has worked hard to select volunteers, develop an Elder Abuse Recognition and Prevention teaching curriculum, and train the volunteers to deliver Elder Abuse workshops to the community at large.

Our goals for the next year are to continue to provide the above quality services to seniors by educating more peer counsellors and friendly visitors, to continue working on the Ambassador program, and to seek out other services which will further support our isolated and needy seniors.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the JSA Peer Support Committee for all their help and our very dedicated and hard working program staff members Charles Liebovitch and Grace Hann. I would also like to thank all the wonderful volunteers who give their time and care to provide these services to seniors, without you we could not do this special work.

Respectfully submitted,
Pamella Ottem


Graduation Of Peer Counsellors

“Happiness doesn’t result from what you get – but from what you give.” –Ben Carson

On June 11th 2015, I walked into a room filled with givers – of themselves. It was the special occasion of the graduation ceremony of the 5th class of Peer Counselors, which took place at the Peretz Centre.

They were a group consisting of 13 various aged men and women who met as strangers and quickly became an extended family of friends. Through 11 weekly 5-hour sessions in which interactive role playing was used, they were taught how to listen, comprehend and use their newly acquired techniques.

Charles Leibovitch, Coordinator of Peer Support Services, welcomed those gathered- family, friends of those receiving certificates and members of the Board of the JSA.

Leibovitch introduced himself and Grace Hann, Trainer and Supervisor of the Peer classes Counseling Program.

The speakers included: Leah Deslauriers, Coordinator of Seniors at the JCC, Barb Kirby, of Community Resource Network; Becky Herrmann, Community Resources Director for Angels There For You.

Larry Shapiro, JSA Board Member spoke next, informing the audience, that having completed the course, he felt prepared to go out and serve in the capacity for which he had been trained. Shapiro also felt the course had taught him empathy as well as the skills and techniques necessary to offer others methods of self-help.

Neveen Hossameldin, another graduate, said that as an immigrant what one missed most were the friendships left behind but felt that she didn’t expect to have another 55 years to forge new friendships.

Yet, after 55 hours as part of this harmonious group, she felt that she had indeed made lasting friendships. Grace Hann, Trainer and Supervisor of Peer Support, said she would just thank the JSA and its founder, Serge Haber who deserved a special tribute for his vision without which this whole program would not exist.

Hann underscored that self-absorption kills empathy as focusing on ourselves makes our world contract whereas giving to others broadens our world. “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”- Helen Keller.

Binny Goldman


Senior Peer Counselling Training Program

The Jewish Seniors Alliance senior peer support services are becoming more and more entrenched into our community! As an ongoing program, we have connected with many isolated, lonely and marginalized seniors in our community and we are making a difference in their lives.

Social isolation is one of our most pervasive challenges in our society and without a doubt, the most difficult one to correct. Social isolation affects the health and well-being of seniors and is known to reduce their quality of life. Through our peer to peer senior emotional support, our friendly visitor, our caller program, and our grief support, we are able to make a difference and we have!
Remember, when we volunteer, we not only help our community, we help ourselves.

We are currently doing outreach to seniors at almost a dozen community residences and senior centres. While we recognize the need to reach socially isolated seniors, we also know the challenges associated with reaching many people who have been isolated for long periods. If you are aware of a senior who is experiencing isolation, loneliness, marginalization or abuse please inform us and we would be happy to visit and/or assign an appropriate trained volunteer to help.

We are pursuing partnerships with many senior health community centres and we recognize this as a top priority. We continue to see gaps and lack of services for seniors who are isolated and going through age related challenges.

We continue to provide support to older adults of all denominations who live in the lower mainland.

We are thrilled to have started our 5th Senior peer counselling training in February and for the first time the training will be held at the Peretz Centre. Many thanks to the Peretz Centre for providing us with this great space!

We gratefully acknowledge the generous financial support of the City of Vancouver which enables us to provide such a broad spectrum of essential services to the senior community of Vancouver.


Charles Leibovitch, Coordinator of Peer Support Services
Grace Hann, Trainer and supervisor