Advancing Resiliency


On April 07,2022 Building GRAND-Families Inc. along with the PEI Alliance for Mental Well Being -Focusing Action for Positive Change Grant Program signed a 3 year Project Charter Optimizing Mental Well-Being in Grand-Families on PEI. This project will be Co-Lead by Donald Avery-Founder/President Building GRAND-Families Inc. as well as Co-Lead Dr  Christina Murray, BA, PhD, RN Interim Dean, Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing University of Prince Edward Island.

Optimizing Mental Health and Well-Being in Grand-Families on PEI

Building GRAND-Families Inc., a community-based non-profit organization in Charlottetown, is pleased to announce the start of an ambitious 3-year project to optimize grand-family well-being with the generous support from the PEI Alliance for Mental Well-Being.

The GRAND-Families Well-Being Project’s ultimate objective will be to show how community services and supports portray grand-families as strong, confident, resilient, and able to respond positively in the face of adversity. When a grandparent steps-up and steps-in to raise their grandchildren, the children benefit from the warmth, attention, love, and care offered by loved ones. The children and their grandparents are then able to reach their full potential in life.

The project will increase public awareness of grand-families to enhance understanding of life in a grand-family; build community capacity to engage, serve and support grand-families; develop professional and family competencies to meet the unique needs of grandchildren and youth living with their grandparents; and create a peer support community and extended network of supports to optimize grand-family well-being.

Like all families, grand-families are diverse. A grand-family is formed when a grandparent(s) becomes the primary guardian or caregiver raising their grandchildren. Often grand-families have experienced trauma, witnessed or experienced violence, and have had interactions with law enforcement, child protection services and social workers. There are over 150 grand-families in PEI. Research from UPEI shows that with the right supportive interventions, grand-families can thrive and promote healthy child development and well-being. The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified, intensified, and amplified the importance and significance of mental health and well-being. New grand-families have been formed, and existing grand-families have been placed under additional stress and strain during the pandemic.

The Project Team, consisting of Building GRAND-Families Inc. and Dr. Christina Murray, BA, RN, Ph.D. of UPEI, will work with community, government and spiritual leaders to lay the foundation for the children and youth of grand-families; develop stable and consistent responsive relationships with adults; promote healthy brain development; learn core life skills; and provide the buffering protection needed to prevent toxic stress build-up. These same environments enhance grandparents’ well-being by providing skill-building opportunities, and advice and emotional support that boost confidence, hope, and the ability to weather stressful situations.

The GRAND-Families Well-Being Project leverages all the good in grand-families and minimizes the stress with a series of workshops and roundtables, publication and dissemination of resource materials, training, professional development, and counselling and parenting programs. The project includes an impact study, program evaluations, and collaborative community engagement.

The project will strengthen existing relationships and foster new ones – both within communities, regions and across the province. The project will contribute to Canada’s commitment to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 1 – End Poverty; Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-Being; Goal 10 – Reduced Inequality; and Goal 17 – Partnerships for the Goals by 2030.

The GRAND-Families Well-Being Project will increase awareness of grand-families and the vital role they play in children’s lives in PEI, increase access to mental health services (peer counselling and individual, family and group therapy) for grand-families, increase the quantity and quality of community services available to grand-families, increase resiliency (individual and families), enhance  well-being (grandparents, children, family), improve school attendance/educational achievement, and enhance social engagement (grandparents, children).

Year one of the project will run until March of 2023. For more information, contact Don Avery, Building Grand-Families Inc. Board Chair, at

We have selected 3 professional organizations to carry out our objectives for year one. They are as follows.

Colleen Mahar Counselling will be providing 20 sessions of mental health, wellness support, and guidance for grand families on Prince Edward Island through counselling in a safe, confidential, and non judgmental space. Just remember that you are deserving of this time and space. Positive change is on the horizon.

The Hughes-Jones Centre has agreed to provide Equine Informed Teaching Services for participants (7 grand-families) 10 sessions for each family beginning on October 01,2022 to March 18,2023 focusing on the following topics/results/outcomes/goals stated below for Building Grand-Families.

P R O G R A M  C O A C H I N G  G O A L S

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Building Empathy and Fostering Understanding.
  • Communication skills
  • Healthy Relationships and Relationship Building
  • Connection and Communication
  • Active Listening
  • Assertive Communication
  • Healthy Boundaries: building and asserting good boundaries
  • Problem Solving skills
  • Identifying personal strengths and capabilities
  • Emotional control and congruence
  • Embracing failure and building resilience    

We are pleased to share that Grand River Ranch will provide Building Grand-Families 10 sessions during the 2022-2023 school year on the Department of Education’s identified Professional Development days accommodating up to 16 people per day. Providing opportunities for building family memories where the horse is their teacher. Sessions will include: Equine Assisted Learning (outcome based) as well as other connecting and communicating activities to encourage boundaries, empowerment and problem-solving skills.

  • Improved personal awareness.
  • Encouragement in verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
  • Teaching empathy and willingness to accept responsibility.
  • Delivering insight into group dynamics and support for problem solving.
  • Helping participants understand how defensive barriers create communication barriers. 
  • Assisting participants with their understanding of the benefits of being in a supportive group or team.
  • Promoting patience when team/group members need support.
  • Creating opportunities for empowering individuals’ growth in areas of personal comfort, self- confidence and self-esteem.
  • Appropriate challenges created for participants which address a specific need and then debriefed in a non-judgmental discussion.
  • Skills development related to personal ethics, responsibility, and appropriate assertiveness.
  • Developing an appreciation for differences and diversity.
  • Engaging participant discussions and activities to learn more about horses and themselves.
  • Inspiring impulse control and improved decision-making skills.
  • Immediate practicing of newly learned skills.
  • Experiencing fellowship & fun.

                  Year One September 17 2022  thru March 18,2023                    

Building awarenessTo increase understanding of grand-families and life in a grand-family. Host monthly workshops for grandparents. Develop and distribute a series of awareness materials (digital and print) including an Educational Resource Booklet for all PEI Schools.
Building capacityTo provide access to individual, family, group therapy and parenting programs. Provide access to specialized trauma-informed one-on-one and group counselling for grandchildren and grandparents in grand-families with Colleen Mahar Counselling Services. Customize and co-design parenting and counselling programs in Year 1 (Q1-Q2). Deliver up to 300 hours parenting and counselling sessions in Year 1 (Q3-Q4)  
Building competencies To reduce stigma, increase accessibility and enhance the experience accessing community programs and services. Deliver an in-service workshop/training for Grand families with Equine Assisted Learning at Grand River Ranch for grand-families in western PEI as well as programming works through using both horsemanship and a 6000 year old relationship between people and horses at the Hughes Jones Centre for people and animals in the eastern part of PEI.
Building communityTo increase social inclusion, to reduce stress and isolation, Train and support peer counsellors involved with BGF. Expand peer support programs to eastern PEI and western PEI. Create a comprehensive network of those who serve and support grand-families.
Measure ImpactTo assess the effectiveness of programs, Conduct research before, during and after the program elements to determine how we have impacted grand-family well-being