Drug and alcohol counsellor Maris Depers and family support worker Lisa Bishop have travelled to Canada to share information about family support programs pioneered in Wollongong.
Mr Depers and Mrs Bishop are two of the four-member Wollongong-based team involved in the Salvation Army’s First Floor Program, which was created by Jayne Wilson and Marilyn Dunn.
In Vancouver, Mr Depers and Mrs Bishop will train community workers in Kelowna City and equip them to operate programs similar to many which have been established in Wollongong, and spread to other cities such as Sydney and Canberra.
The programs include counselling for people in alcohol, drug and gambling addiction and support for members of their families, including children, partners and grandparents.
Mrs Bishop became a family support worker five years ago after receiving help through the Wollongong program herself.
She said it was good to be able to visit Canada with someone as experienced as Mr Depers.
‘‘We work alongside each other,’’ Mrs Bishop said. ‘‘Maris and I do the program development as well.’’
More than 120 Illawarra families are now assisted through the First Floor Program, which also assists families of people in prison or on parole or affected by suicide.
Implementation of the Illawarra program follows a visit to Wollongong by Salvation Army leaders from Kelowna.
Mrs Bishop said the Wollongong team had been constantly developing the programs over 15 years, so they had plenty of information to share with the Canadians.
She said to attract such interest from overseas was validation of the important work they were doing with families in the Illawarra.“A lot of services have grown up around the individual, and that is important too, but families have a recovery journey they need to take,’’ she said.
“For me it is a personal thing, because I came to work here through actually being a member of a group. I had personal experience of that with a son in addiction.
‘‘Being able to just take it somewhere else and have them embrace that is good.’’