AmeriCorps establishes peer support group for women in District 6
May 6, 2016
Submitted by AmeriCorps
Gila River Indian Community
The Gila River Indian Community’s AmeriCorps Veterans Serving Veterans program began in 2014 as the result of a Federal AmeriCorps grant awarded to GRIC’s Employment & Training Department under the direction of Lana Chanda. The program, coordinated by Leonard Bruce, first focused on identifying and getting to know GRIC veterans and on understanding how the program’s volunteer AmeriCorps service team might support veterans’ needs.
During the first outreach year of the program, several women came forward with powerful stories. This happened with such frequency that it became evident to AmeriCorps service member Vickie Crain, District 6, that something had to be done to support the women and family members of veterans. Vicki, along with the department’s Training Specialist, Zephryn Conte, developed the Women’s Peer Support Group.
In June of 2015 surveys were distributed Community-wide to see how many women would be interested in an all-women peer support group. By August of 2015, over 60 completed surveys confirmed that women were hungry for opportunities to network, share their stories and to support and learn from one another in a safe, non-threatening and non-clinical setting. So began the All-Women’s Peer Support Group.
The first official meeting took place in District 6 in October of 2015. The wives, sisters, daughters and mothers of veterans shared how they had been seriously affected or impacted by their veteran’s tour of service. They were not prepared for the “stranger” who came home “different” than the loved one who left. In many cases their lives completely changed over-night. Many of them said they went to the Veteran’s Affairs Hospital seeking answers, sought answers at Behavioral Health and searched for other outside help about how to support their loved ones, but felt that they needed and wanted something different than what was being offered through these organizations.
The All-Women’s Peer Support Group has now been meeting for six months in District 6. The group has participated in deep discussion around post traumatic stress disorder. They have shared pain, humor, creativity and prayer in the evening meetings. They have also joined the AmeriCorps service member trainings focusing on PTSD and anger management. These experiences have greatly supported and educated the participating women in ways that have bonded them as a community-based ‘sisterhood.’ They have described the meetings as “uplifting, healing and meaningful.” Meetings are monthly on Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. For more information please call the AmeriCorps office to speak to Vickie Crain at (520) 562-3388. We look forward to hearing from you!