November 17 and 18 were historic days in the life of Ohel Bais Ezra’s Sibshops program. Don Meyer, the director of the Sibling Support Project and founder of the Sibshops model, returned to New York from Seattle, Washington, to give the third comprehensive training for new Sibshops facilitators, fully sponsored by Ohel Bais Ezra. In attendance were parents and adult siblings of individuals with special needs, along with Medicaid service coordinators, those who will facilitate the new Queens and Staten Island Sibshops programs, and staff from JFS Clifton/Passaic who will help run Bais Ezra’s New Jersey program. Also in attendance were staff members from Ohel’s foster-care program, who are considering adapting the model to meet the needs of the siblings they serve, as well as a group of new facilitators to run the existing network of Sibshops groups.
The first day of the two-day program began with a fascinating, interactive presentation by Don Meyer about the importance of recognizing the unique concerns and emotions that siblings of individuals with special needs grapple with. Don impressed upon the audience the urgency of acknowledging the needs of siblings, as they are the family members who have the longest lasting relationship with their special sibs, outlasting even that of their parents. Attendees were then moved by the panel of adult siblings of individuals with special needs, who shared their personal accounts of trials and triumphs growing up with special siblings. Don Meyer moderated the panel, and the audience asked follow-up questions and shared their own anecdotes.
On the second day, Sibshops facilitator trainees were treated to a real-life Sibshop, with Don Meyer leading the group. A group of 12 young siblings attended the pilot Sibshop, engaging in fun, recreational activities, as well as thoughtful discussions led by Don and co-facilitated by all of the attendees. At the conclusion of the event, all the trainees agreed that Sibshops are an important resource for families, providing an enjoyable outlet for sibs as well as a safe, non-judgmental environment for airing their feelings.
Less than four years ago, Ohel Bais Ezra’s Sibshops program began with only two groups a month, and now Ohel proudly runs 8-9 Sibshops groups monthly! In a meeting with Don, he informed the Ohel Bais Ezra staff that Ohel’s Sibshops are in the top 1% of agencies who are running Sibshops, and he greatly admires Ohel’s commitment to the siblings and families they serve.
Ohel Bais Ezra currently runs separate boys and girls groups in Brooklyn and Far Rockaway, with new groups forming in Staten Island, Queens, and Passaic.
For more information regarding Ohel Bais Ezra’s spectacular Sibshops program, please call Chayale at 718-686-3491 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.