Once upon a time, 3 years ago, I (Natalie Harris) had a peer-support dream. I had been diagnosed with PTSD as a paramedic, and after I spent seven weeks at a rehabilitation hospital named Homewood, in Guelph, I went home and felt very alone. There was no group that I could attend to share my emotions with people in my career/culture anymore. So I reached out to my friend named Dawn, and we thought to ourselves, “Let’s change this”. So we made a call out on social media for people to help, and many people from all across Canada came forward to create what is now called Wings of Change. We are grateful to every single one of them!
One of the main peer support leaders for this group was Syd Gravel, a retired staff sergeant for the Ottawa Police Department and a member of the Order of Merit for Police – he knew his stuff, and told Natalie that she didn’t have to reinvent the wheel and that she could use reading from his book 56 Seconds at her Wing of Change meetings.
After this, Jim Harris, the Director of the Barrie CMHA chapter at the time, provided the location for the first inaugural meeting to take place, and Wings of Change Peer Support was born.
Natalie and Syd
But that’s only the beginning! Wings of Change took off! Pun intended – and Syd and Natalie needed some help with the growing demands for the program. But alas, Natalie had an instant idea about who could come to their rescue – the talented, the lovely, the driven, Katherine Pomerleau! She is the perfect Program Coordinator and since Katherine has joined the team she has accomplished SO MUCH…and all by volunteer hours. Wings of Change is always free and all of our amazing facilitators generously give their time every month (sometimes several times a month) to make sure that meetings are held and that community heroes know that they are not alone, but Katherine goes above and beyond her role to make sure that this program excels and follows guidelines set out my the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Katherine’s model has even been named a Thriving Peer Support Organization in Canada by Peer Support Canada and Wilfred Laurier University!
Among many things, Katherine has:
- Created a peer support knowledge exchange;
- Organized and facilitates peer learning for the facilitators;
- Established guidelines based off of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s best practices for peer support;
- Developed templates for presentations;
- Developed Google classrooms where facilitators can obtain video guidance and trouble-shooting examples;
- Developed a framework to help grow chapters across the nation.
She makes sure that every meeting has at least two qualified facilitators, and has grown the Wings of Change family to include the following cities:
Southern Georgian Bay
Prince Edward Island
WE ARE WORKING TO LAUNCH NEW CHAPTERS ACROSS CANADA. STAY TUNED FOR MORE DETAILS
Portage la Prairie, MB
Red Deer, AB
South Durham, ON
St. John’s, NL
Vancouver Island, BC
Without Katherine’s dedication and unwavering commitment to Wings of Change, we would not be where we are in three short years!
I would love for people to share a testimonial (anonymous if you wish) about how Wings of Change has affected your life! Let’s let Katherine and the amazing facilitators know how much their hard work is paying off!
You can find more information about Wings of Change here.