South Shore Breaker
‘It’s been long overdue’
Program for women veterans receives funding
A comprehensive program designed to foster the well-being of women veterans of the military and RCMP in Nova Scotia has received $90,000 in funding.
The money comes from the federal government through the Veteran and Family Wellbeing Fund (VFWF).
In a recent news release, organizers of the SPIRIT Program, offered through the Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association, said the grant was announced last month at Rohan Wood Stables in Aylesford. Lawrence Macaulay, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence, toured the facility and presented a check.
The release said the SPIRIT Program is a collaboration between Clannad Counselling and Consulting Inc., the Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association and Rohan Wood Stables. It will run over 18 months and be offered to retired, or retiring, military or RCMP female personnel living in the central and western regions of the province.
“The transition from military life to life after service can prove to be difficult for some. These three organizations have developed new and innovative ways to support veterans going through this transition, through unique projects like equine therapy, farming and the arts,” Macaulay said in the release.
Alissa Cue is the head coach of the Free Spirit Therapeutic Riding Association and equine facilitator for the SPIRIT Program, which Cue said grew out of a pilot project.
“It’s fabulous to see the Well-being Fund support a rural program. Often funding for veterans is normally around urban areas,” Cue said. “And I think it is great they are looking at funding programs that are specifically for women as most veterans’
programs are targeted more towards the male population.”
Cue said women who have suffered sexual misconduct during their military careers could be triggered by participating in programming with their male counterparts.
“So, by having it as an allwomen’s program it really fosters a sense of safety where people can really share their stories,” Cue said.
According to Cue, 64 veterans will participate in eight weeks of equine therapy. No horse experience is necessary because equine therapy is an experiential learning model that does not involve riding.
“Horses interact with us in a way that people often do.
So, if we are a shy person, we might be hesitant to approach a horse. And we might give up our power to the horse unknowingly,” Cue said.
“And that might be actually
how we playout in relationships with people. So, it gives us in real-time a reflection of how we are doing relationships in our lives and an opportunity for reflection.”
Participants will also take part in another eight sessions over eight months of alternative therapies including meditation, art therapy and drumming. That will be followed by eight months of Lunch and Learns, where participants meet once a month. Those events will feature presentations on various women’s health issues, including caring for aging parents, nutrition and working with personal trainers. The SPIRIT program will culminate in a retreat in Halifax.
Veteran Dianne Neuman, of Greenwood, retired from the Royal Canadian Airforce in 2017 as an imagery technician after 20 years of service.
“I think this is a great opportunity, especially coming out of the pandemic for reconnection or just connecting with other veterans. After you get out of the military you lose that comradery,” Neuman said.
Neuman agrees there is a gap in funding for programs focused on the needs of women veterans.
“It’s been long overdue in my opinion,” Neuman said.
Michelle Macisaac is a clinical social worker and co-owner of Clannad Counselling and Consulting in Kentville. Macisaac is a veteran and helped develop the pilot program that paved the way for the SPIRIT program.
Macisaac said the SPIRIT Program promotes healing of relational injuries women veterans have sustained within their work environments.
“… when you work in a place where the people you trust continually breach that trust, it spills out into after the military. How do I trust another work environment? How do I trust relationships in the community? Can I even get involved in the community? What does that look like? Is there safety there? Until we address those needs, women are going to continue to struggle with the transition from military life to civilian life and the level of responsibility we carry,” Macisaac said.
“We talk a lot about the injury women have sustained in the military. We don’t talk a lot about what we are going to do about it … But you can’t ignore the people who are no longer in that system, who still need support and help.”
Registration information for the SPIRIT Program is available by email at info@ fstra.org or by calling 902670-8402.