Each month Toronto Pflag hosts three public meetings across the city where people can come for help and get advice. These meetings are informal and last 90 minutes. No pre-registration is required. Our website has the locations and times for the meetings.
Each meeting is run by a volunteer facilitator and second volunteer. Usually they are parents who have a child who is LGBTQ2S+. There is water and some cookies. And there are two forms: a sign-in sheet for everyone, and a “First Time” form for newcomers. There are a few books that we loan out. And there is a box of tissues.
After the meeting is over the facilitator goes home with two clipboards, one for each of the forms. Usually there is some follow-up. Some participants want their names to be added to our newsletter, and others want to learn more about volunteering with us.
First-time attendees at our meetings often have emotions that are raw. They are worried about their child’s safety, surprised at how sad they are, determined to get past it. Over the 90 minutes, they hear others share their own stories of ache and worries, and of progress and triumphs. And they hear the facilitators’ advice and encouragement and the encouragement from others. This is what peer support at its best looks like.
A key part though is the follow-up with people after the meeting. I facilitated a meeting last night and sent out emails this morning to check in, pass on links and pdfs. It took about an hour. And then the responses started coming in.
They encouraged me. Thanked me for facilitating warmly. Said they felt better after the meeting and this continued into the next morning. All of them said they would come back.
I remember feeling that way after my first meeting. Later this year we will be offering a training session for people who have come to us for help in the past and are ready to help others. In the meantime, it would be great to see you again. You are always welcome.
President, Toronto Pflag