S70: Growing and strengthening our friendship community: Group61 expanding our befriending model.

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By September 17, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Ketayoon Bhathena

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: Growing and strengthening our friendship community: Group61 expanding our befriending model.

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Kat is a passionate advocate for social justice and a firm believer in the value of community. Coming from a creative background Kat believes there is an undeniable link between arts, inclusion and wellness and is a champion of the importance of arts to health and wellbeing. Kat is keen to build and support a strong active and representative network of artists in health and community in and around Brisbane. (So please come and chat to me if this is of interest!) As the Inclusion Coordinator at Wesley Mission QLD, Kat has managed the Group61 program for the last three years and overseen program growth of +100%. "The wisdom and commitment I have been blessed to witness within this program is a true inspiration".

At TheMHS 2018 we introduced our befriending program Group61. Now we share our experiences and learnings as we have grown and diversified this wonderful community initiative.
Group61 joined Wesley Mission QLD in 2016 and in that time has successfully rolled out across Southeast Queensland, our purpose is to see the social inclusion of all our Friends, our mantra, hope and joy through friendship. 2019 is an exciting and challenging year as we expand our community befriending model to reach older community members through Group61Companions and young people through Group61Youth.
This paper will identify how Group61 is expanding its innovative social inclusion program model, broadening its reach and inclusivity to support more diverse populations. The presentation will discuss the findings from the evaluation of our main Group61 program, how and who we chose to expand the program to and how the differing needs and preferences of the new program members have impacted our model of service for each new program. The presentation will conclude by reflecting on the increased and improved resilience of friends and volunteers and how this translates within their own communities in regards to challenging stigma and improving wellness.
"Building hope and resilience through friendships and connection".

Learning Objectives
Learning Objective 1: The audience will be presented with both quantitative and qualitative evidence of the importance of friendship and social connection to health and wellbeing. They will be presented with a grass roots community based program model and walked through the process and learnings of how to diversify a model of service to reach a broader cohort of the community. Group61 is a program that is recovery based, aspirational and full of hope and joy. The sustained contribution from our volunteers will leave the audience feeling inspired and uplifted.
Learning Objective 2: This is a grass roots program with the Lived Experience at its heart. The program recognises and champions the importance of a broader community understanding of mental health and actively promotes greater awareness across south east Queensland through an extensive and empowered volunteer base. The new Group61Youth program works specifically with young people attached to Child Safety who are in psycho-social crisis and we will reflect on our learnings of supporting volunteers to support these young people.

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