Peer Helper Reunion: 15 years of resiliency and still growing

Alisha Okum

Submitted Article

Tuesday, July 17 2018

On Saturday, July 28, over 100 peer helpers from the past have been invited to reunite, remember and share their respective journeys. 

From college grads to current high school students, computer techs, writers and filmmakers, many will return to Gabriola to reaffirm their personal journeys of resiliency and how it has impacted their lives. 

The Peer Helping Program started in 2003 with a mixed age group of 12–17 years old in the Gathering Place. The idea was ignited by a local youth named Chelsea Ruckman who wanted to know how to best support her peers. 

Then four leaders, Jess Cannon (Plante); Alisha Okum (Bennett); Angela Pounds (Thompson); and Gwen Lightly were trained in Victoria to become the first facilitators for the program. 


Peer Helpers from 2003: Top from left: Colton Sapach, Miguel Williams, Ricky Flatla, Brendan Palowski, Stefan Georgieve, and David Elmherst. Bottom from left: Alisha Okum, Nathaniel Moher, John Shepherd, Danielle Roberts, Alex Beale, James Burroughs, Conor Moher, Andrew Ellis, Sarah Plante, and Becky Green. Submitted photo

Over the years the program evolved through the Hope Centre to accommodate two age groups, Peer Helpers In Training (PHIT, ages 11-13) and Teen Peer Helping (13-19) and many youth have returned sharing the positive impact the skills and experiences have had on their lives. For example, some who started in the program as youth peer helpers returned to work as facilitators and staff. During the Peer Helper training, the PH’s have been given opportunities to extend their experiences in a supportive role with others such as the Hope Centre Daycare, Afterschool Program, HOPE for Grade 7s at the elementary school, just to mention a few.

The reunion will take place at the Hope Centre blue building starting at noon till 10:00 p.m., with time for visiting, games, dinner and slide show, videos and sharing of stories. 

There is a need for a dozen adult volunteers to help with this event. If you are interested, please contact Alisha Okum by email at