When Suzy Yehl Marta, a divorced mother of three, was unable to find counseling and peer support for her children following her divorce, she established a weekend retreat for children of divorced parents. The 1983 retreats grew into RAINBOWS, which helps children, adolescents and adults face the emotional pain of death, divorce and other family loss.
Volunteers in the program have created a national network of community-based, peer-support groups for individuals dealing with emotional loss. There are more than 6,000 sites nationally and 14 sites internationally with more than 37,000 trained volunteers.
At RAINBOWS sites, which range from churches to hospitals, volunteer facilitators conduct weekly sessions which provide an environment where participants begin to understand their new family unit, redevelop their self-esteem and create a healthy approach to changes in their lives.
The initial pilot program in Chicago area schools grew from three to 12 schools within one year. Today, there are more than 600,000 participants in the four levels of the program. RAINBOWS and Spectrum curricula focus on elementary and high school students; Kaleidoscope and Prism concentrate on college age and single adults. Volunteers are trained by the group's staff and receive continuous training to face new issues like natural disasters and fires.
RAINBOWS continues to grow and recruit more individuals as registered directors and facilitators. The long-term goal of the group is to provide each family with a community-based program to resolve emotional loss and pain.