Based on our experience working with the Venezuelan forced migration in New York, very few options are found to offer emotional support in Spanish to people who are arriving in the city and who were being victims in Venezuela of situations of persecution, family separation, circumstances of loss such as health, economic status, close family members, etc., nor were the necessary psychological first aid for people and families who were going through anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and depression problems.
Currently, through the Peer Support Program, and with the guidance of Dr. Lee, Psychologist, Ph.D., a group of professional volunteers (one psychologist, two doctors, and two interpreters), all of them Venezuelan newcomers and asylum seekers, a training has been offered to volunteers to be peer supporters, and direct support has been provided to more than 100 people who report symptomatic relief and say that they have greater clarity in support resources in terms of institutions to which they can go in the city to treat those situations that exceed the temporary emotional environment and require clinical or pharmacological treatment.
What is Peer Support?
It is a relationship between two equal partners—people with similar backgrounds/experiences. By sharing their experiences and strategies, they strengthen each other— create mutual growth—and strengthen the community.
Principles and Values
Peer support, at its best, is nonjudgmental. An attitude of empathy (i.e., being willing to understand issues from another’s point of view) and acceptance (i.e., not judging or being critical) are essential factors.
The relationship should be one of mutual respect and collaboration. It should be empowering to both people.
Why Peer Support?
Peer support is an effective way to:
- improve people’s knowledge and access to needed resources
- help people find new relationships and rebuild a sense of belonging
- engage people in the community and strengthen social connections
- Help people regain their strength to manage their life.
There is evidence peer support increases confidence and self-esteem. In this way, it can increase resilience.
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