Like a stone dropped in a pond creating ripples that move outward, one life changed through Harvest Farm has the power to transform many more. The Peer Leader Program allows this ripple effect to happen.
The purpose of the program is to invite graduates of the Farm’s New Life Program (NLP), a faith-based rehabilitation for men, to come back and live on the Farm and engage with NLP participants through one-on-one mentorship and group activities.
By being intentional with participants and spending time with them, the Peer Support Specialists (Peer Leaders) are able to encourage them by listening, guiding and sharing their own experiences in recovery.
The current Peer Leaders, Graham, Taylor and Aaron, live in a home on the southwest corner of the Farm’s property. They help facilitate Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings, participate in Bible studies, plan activities on and off the Farm, and simply catch up with participants over meals and workout sessions.
NLP graduates are eligible to apply for Peer Leader positions if they have been living on their own for at least one year. “They can go out and live life clean and sober without the Farm holding them accountable,” said Steve Pietrafeso, peer leader supervisor at Harvest Farm. “They were outside doing recovery, building a community, going to church. Now, they can come back and tell the guys, ‘during my lived experience, I struggled with this or be cautious of this.’”
The Peer Leaders are required to complete training through Colorado Mental Wellness Network, which helps them cultivate skills in social-emotional support, advocacy and coaching. Their main goal is to help participants graduate, so they intentionally reach out to men who are in the initial phases of the NLP—a period of time that tends to be the most challenging for participants who are in recovery.
The ultimate goal? Prepare more stones for the pond and keep the ripple effect going. Because every life changed at Harvest Farm has the power to transform so many more.
Meet Our Peer Leaders
“I’m from Estes Park. I struggled with [alcoholism] for about 17 years. I went through periods of sobriety and fell off the wagon again. I couldn’t take care of myself.
My grandmother told my mom about [Harvest Farm]. I was terrified. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t realize there were people out there who actually cared that much. It definitely renewed my faith a lot.
I’m the older one of the three [Peer Leaders]. You can see that a lot of the older participants are drawn toward me. We usually just barbeque and hang out and talk about life. I take a group to church every Sunday. I’m also doing a men’s small group. I’m continuing my career as an electrician. Someday, I want to be a full-time addiction counselor and try and help people. I feel like it might be kind of a calling.”
“When I was younger, I was always in trouble. Liquor is what really started a downward spiral in my life. By the time I was 17, I was physically dependent on alcohol. I got locked up after spending time living under bridges.
That’s when God changed my life. December 5, 2017 at approximately 3:45 p.m. is when I last did drugs and drank. I went to Harvest Farm, and Jesus continued doing work in me. Hanging out with good people was revolutionary for me in my recovery. I loved that we had to go to church every Sunday.
That was the lowest point in my life. There was really no reason to live. Now, it’s the complete opposite. I have a reason that I’m here. I went through what I went through to help others. None of my struggle was in vain.”
Now, I’m a youth leader volunteer at my church. I have spoken at about 10 schools. [Being a Peer Leader] gives me a sense of purpose. I never had purpose. I used to live in this cardboard box.
“I was a farmer. I was eight or nine when I started getting blackout drunk. Then, as I got into junior high, I tried pills. Once I got to high school, I was still drinking, smoking pot and chewing.
When I was 22 or 23, I had hernia surgery and the doctor put me on pain meds. That rekindled the fire for an opioid addiction. I had a couple of failed suicide attempts. [The New Life Program] was my third rehab. I thought I was going to sit in a classroom and listen to somebody preach about all my poor choices.
[As a Peer Leader], my deal is going to AA meetings and sharing my experience, strength and hope with them. Another way I interact with them is in the weight room. We talk about lifting or talk about life. I just remind them that their worst day sober is still going to be a thousand times better than any best high they’ve had.
But when I got to Harvest Farm, it reminded me of home. I could feed the animals and water the fields. I could clear my mind. I just felt like I owed it to the Farm and the guys to help them get back on their feet.
Your gifts are making a profound difference in the lives of our New Life Program graduates, who in turn transform the people and communities around them. Donate today to continue fostering this ripple effect.
The Impact of the Peer Leader Program
Numbers reflect September 1, 2019 to June 20, 2020.
Number of times Peer Leaders connected with participants: 2,015
Average number of hours per week that a Peer Leader spends with participants: 12.5
Increase in retention from participants’ first 30 to 60 days in the program, compared to the previous year before the Peer Leader Program was in effect: 6%
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- Road to Recovery
- Why Harvest Farm Matters
- Letter from our CEO
- Core Strategies