By Naomi Barber

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Peer mentoring is a form of mentorship that usually takes place between a person who has lived through a specific experience (peer mentor) and a person who is new to that experience (the peer mentee). (Wikipedia)

BCA members often have significant life experiences, and newer members may be seeking the knowledge and expertise of someone who has walked in their shoes. More than a support worker, or a formal support, a mentor is someone with whom we can develop a relationship and trust to listen to us, someone who understands our challenges, walks beside us and helps us find the answers to our questions. That’s why BCA has invested in a group of people who are blind or vision impaired to become the next generation of mentors, people the community can look to for guidance and support to help them adjust, achieve and succeed.

In 2019 BCA has been delivering training through the Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) funding as granted by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).  Specifically, a group of approximately 30 people met on a weekly basis to learn, develop skills and competencies, and explore the challenges and the powerful impact of Peer Mentoring.

The group was comprised of people of various ages and life stages, people who were born blind and those who have lost their sight more recently.

There were men and women, those from non-English speaking backgrounds and many from remote and regional areas. The group members linked via teleconference and shared their thoughts and experiences with the weekly facilitator. The ultimate aim was to equip BCA members with the skills and resources to act as confident mentors, supporting other people within their community to achieve their own goals.

The topics covered included communication, expressing yourself, boundaries, learning styles, perspectives, empathy, self-management, stigma, considering others’ viewpoints, coaching vs mentoring, setting vision statements, advocacy for others and for yourself, empowering others and motivation.

While conducting a teleconference with around 30 participants posed some unique challenges, it also provided us with significant lessons, and ideas on how to progress our learning and development strategies into the future. Congratulations to all who completed the training, and will now look to acting as peer mentors to others on their journey of life.

Some of our participants have shared the following insights:

“I have grown in confidence from being part of this training.”

“I’ve met other blind people and heard their stories for the first time.”

“I’ve learnt that I have skills and capabilities that I have developed over the years that I can now use to help others.”

“Having access to a teleconference means that I can talk to people from other states in other parts of Australia. This includes access to facilitators and presenters. This training has opened my eyes to so many possibilities.”

“I’ve really enjoyed it.”

“Thank you for the information during the last six weeks. It’s been invaluable and lovely to meet other members.”

If you are someone seeking a mentor, give BCA a call to discuss your needs, as we may be able to assist in linking you with a suitable graduate mentor.

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