Side by Side:
A mental health program shaped by WCK families

Written by Jacqueline Fraser

Side by Side Peer Support Program

All of WCK’s programs have a key thing in common: they are carefully created from direct input and guidance from the families in our community. Side By Side is no different, and we’re so glad to finally be launching this program and offering multiple ways for caregivers to engage with peer support.

Over the past year and a half that I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside WCK families, I’ve been so inspired by their desire to help other families in whatever ways they can. This is a community that recognizes that at any given moment, some of us will have more capacity, resources, and time that can be utilized to uplift others who would benefit from the extra support. Throughout the years that WCK has been operating, we’ve seen just what an incredible source for good organizing our diverse and generous community can be. Our goal with Side By Side is to continue to work as a community to ensure caregivers are as supported as possible, so that they can best care for their families.

One of the most important things we learned during the process of creating and piloting this program over the past several months is that it is absolutely vital to meet caregivers wherever they are in a way that is nonjudgmental and responsive to their needs.  Every family is so unique and mental health support is multi-faceted, so it can look different for everyone at various stages of their family’s journey. For some, simply receiving help accessing practical things like food or financial assistance will have the greatest impact on their mental well-being. Others may have the capacity and desire to work with a counselor to help them process their feelings and experiences. We believe that every caregiver knows what will feel the most supportive for them throughout their journey, so the most helpful thing we can do is listen, do our best to ease the way to accessing appropriate resources, and walk alongside caregivers as peers on their mental health and well-being journeys.

Through Side By Side, we want to help ease the way for families to access the resources they need, and combat isolation among parents/caregivers by surrounding them with a supportive community of their peers. Caregivers can either join a drop-in, ongoing group, or they can simply request to connect with another caregiver one-on-one.

Our current ongoing groups are:

  • Caregivers with Teens Group (Virtual): For caregivers who are navigating the uniquely challenging experience of supporting a teenager through a childhood cancer or blood disorder journey.
  • Indigenous Caregivers Group (Virtual): A space for Indigenous caregivers to receive culturally safe emotional support and access additional resources.
  • Hospital Walking Group (In-person): The summertime walking group encourages caregivers and families staying at or near BC Children’s Hospital to take some time for some fresh air and movement.

We’re so excited to be starting Side By Side by offering these groups and our one-on-one peer support. This format also allows us to easily create new groups based on whatever the community is asking for.

We started by listening to families, and we’ll continue to do so. I think that principle is what has drawn the wide network of wonderful people who help us run our programs to this organization. I can’t wait to see how this program, and how future mental health programs grow in the future.

Interested in joining a group, getting connected to another parent/caregiver or volunteering with Side By Side? Reach out through our interest form here.

Side by Side has been generously supported through funding from Nicola Wealth.