Family Support Groups Program at the Four Homes of Mercy (FHOM) is becoming more important and a needed resource for families who have a loved one with a multiple physical and intellectual disability. Such support groups are emerging as a significant part in psychosocial rehabilitation programs. Knowing that others have had the same experience and sharing with each other their concerns and dreams is a relief to families who have rarely spoken about disabilities to neighbors, friends, or often, even relatives. Learning from each other ways to work out some common issues is inspiring hope.
To meet the expectations of family members who attend the Family Support Groups Program and to assure an effective implementation of such program, the FHOM teams are focusing on the following aspects:
- Creating opportunities to socialize and building friendships – families moved on in building close friendships and started to invite new members to join the group, where they have the chance to share their concerns, challenges, and experiences. They emphasized on the need to keep regular meetings and to strengthen communication between each other.
- Providing a listening ear – families enjoyed the chance not only to be heard, but also to hear each other while expressing their feelings, needs, and concerns. Being in such a loving environment enabled families to feel that they are more socially supported and accepted by friends who are ready to listen and understand their worries and fears.
- Providing information, advice, and emotional and social support – being able to learn and to be part in making decisions concerning their loved ones is of great importance for families and a valuable chance to get guidance on ways to address their concerns and implement their experiences. This caring environment is able to provide families with strong emotional support.
- Providing a regular meeting place – the family support program provides families who come from different parts of Palestine with a regular place to meet and organize joint activities families; this is one of the factors that encouraged families to invite new members to join the group.
- Organizing activities such as joint excursions and family days out – families actively joined a number of activities, where they were able to strengthen communication, build relations, and enjoy entertainment activities.
Rami celebrating Eid with his family
Rami’s mother, Aisha, was encouraged to invite Rami’s sister and 3 brothers to join her in celebrating Eid with Rami in the FHOM with other families; she said: I’m proud of my son, Rami! Being part of the family support group is making me stronger, and now I have a great desire to spread this feeling to my children.
Overcoming fear, shame, and stigma
In one of the meetings Nora’s father, Abed, raised the issue of fear, stigma, and shame that he and his family have to deal with. He expressed his need to talk about his experience and to hear from others about the coping mechanisms they learned to use in order to overcome these feelings.