By Mark Koning
From the day I was born and into childhood I had been a quiet individual who liked nothing more than to make others happy. I grew into someone who is a quiet individual who likes nothing more than to make others happy, and to lend support where I can. I continue to grow into that more and more every day. I have been through so much, I carry so many experiences that I’ve battled through. that I feel it is my duty to give back.
It was during an Ontario March of Dimes Brain Injury Awareness conference in June of 2012 that I stumbled upon a way to give back like nothing else I had done before. I had and was volunteering at a few things, but this was personal, and it touched my heart the more I thought about it. OBIA (Ontario Brain Injury Association) was offering a Peer Support Mentoring Program.
The more I learned about it, the more I came to love it. But also question it. Was this something I could do? The OBIA website states:
The Peer Support Mentoring Program connects a volunteer who is a “veteran” of a life experience involving acquired brain Injury (the “Mentor”) with an individual who is coping with similar issues (the “Partner”) and is in need of support.
A definition I found said this:
Mentor: noun; a wise and trusted counselor or teacher, an influential senior sponsor or supporter; someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.
I liked the idea of offering support; I knew I had much experience to share; but words like “veteran”, “teacher”, “wisdom”, and “influential senior”???? Was I those things? Eventually I just decided to move ahead with this and I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and reached out to one of OBIA’s listed affiliates that ran the program closest to my location; BIST.
After speaking with the Coordinator at the Brain Injury Society of Toronto I was put more at ease and I came to realize that my experiences and the thoughts I had surrounding them, along with my eagerness to help and share, made me those things. When I attended the training session for this program I fell in love with this idea, the idea of paying it forward, even more. Not only was I being lead by a passionate and brilliant Coordinator but to meet seven other individuals who presented thoughtfulness and an unwavering sentiment to help, in many ways, complete strangers, was encouraging to say the least. I was surrounded by awesome, beautiful and knowledgeable people. Survivors and fighters and individuals whom simply wanted do right by others.
My questions were gone. I could do this. I could not only help someone else, but I could grow with this. It would and could benefit me as much as whomever I was to be partnered with.
Another definition I missed is:
Mentorship: a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. However, true mentoring is more than just answering occasional questions or providing ad hoc help. It is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialog, and challenge. The person in receipt of mentorship may be referred to as a protégé (male), a protégée (female), an apprentice or, in recent years, a mentee.
I have been a mentor now for a little over a month and it is going good, and it is, well…. Fun! It is not just about teaching someone and imparting wisdom, but building a trusting relationship, communicating, and supporting and learning from one another. I think that this is the type of relationship we could all use; because our truest strengths not only come from past experiences, but the healthy relationships that we keep.
With brain injury we can all feel a little trapped in the dark. With this program it helps teach us and others, that we are not trapped, and none of us are really alone.
To get involved in this program contact: Kat Powell, Peer Support Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 416-830-1485.