Wayfinders Wellness Retreat is transforming into a regional hub for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to find a path to treatment, as the Cochrane community continues to back the facility with financial and volunteer support.
Most recently, a second $5,000 donation was presented to Wayfinders by Canlin Energy. Their first donation of the same increment came in August of last year.
“The community support has been amazing and it just keeps growing, especially as we start having our programs now running consistently – it’s been huge,” said Steph D., office manager and administrator with Wayfinders.
Restoration of the retreat’s base of operations at an old farmhouse at WineGlass Ranch southwest of Cochrane is nearly complete, with only minor trim and furnishings left, according to president Chris Reader.
But there is still work left to do outside the walls of the farmhouse.
There are plans to build a yoga platform over the Jumpingpound Creek and a community garden for example, in addition to their current nature-based program offerings like beekeeping, drum circles, music groups, equine therapy, First Nations sweat lodge ceremonies, and other land-based teachings.
Ongoing support from community groups is critical to continue allowing military and first responders, along with their family members, access to their services for free, according to Steph.
“That is what part of our operational grant covers and that’s the structure that we need to keep moving forward,” she said. “We want to keep that ongoing from year to year and that’s where the funding becomes so important. We know it becomes difficult for people to be able to attend if there are costs involved because veterans and first responders with PTSD are already struggling and not getting enough of the support they need.”
Besides financial support, the second thing the non-profit needs is more volunteers, says Reader.
“We need boots on the ground to help out because once the house is completely done, then we’re focusing on programs and events a bit more,” he said.
The retreat currently hosts varying volunteer-run workshops and programs at a frequency of about once per week, including peer support groups.
They’re now reaching a point in their operations where they need to start bringing on a few contracted employees to ensure some programming is offered more consistently based on the needs of clients.
“Anybody who wants to help out, donate – we won’t say no because we want to take this project and blow it up and make it as big as possible,” said Reader.
The bigger it gets, the more vets and first responders they can help, he added, and their efforts to expand haven’t gone unappreciated.
“The people that we have been able to help out have been super grateful, not only just with programming that we host here with our beekeeping and stuff like that, but also our peer support groups which can be attended in-person or over Zoom,” Reader said.
One of Wayfinders goals as a non-profit for veterans and first responders with PTSD is to be both a centre for support and a directory for other supports across the province, and eventually maybe coast-to-coast.
The groups working to aid vets and first responders with PTSD are well-intentioned and do great work, Reader says, but no one path to healing is the same and the road to getting there isn’t always clear. That’s where Wayfinders wants to come in.
“The veteran community, everybody wants to help out, but it’s like walking into a room with no lights,” he said. “All these organizations that want to support are operating in their own little cells. What we’re doing is we’re essentially trying to be the hub so we can either help people here or direct them to an organization that can.”