Women Vets Network: Peers for Life

This group is dedicated to 'increasing support, decreasing isolation, and helping our heroes find camaraderie'

by Katherine Harris | Updated 19 Jul 2017 at 10:07 AM

A major grant in the amount of $469,000 from the Walmart Foundation will fund the first 15 months of a program organized by two Boston University (BU) School of Medicine associate professors of psychiatry. The goal of the program, called the Women Veteran’s Network (WoVeN), is to help female vets more successfully reintegrate into civilian life that will bring together women veterans for learning, conversation, and mutual support.

As a Boston University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alumna, I am grateful to the Walmart Foundation for helping Boston University advance the work that will help women veterans thrive in civilian life.

Women make up 15 percent of U.S. active-duty troops. Returning to civilian life means the loss of the support structures they had during their service, structures that have been shown to be particularly important for women.

"We wanted to build a sustainable network for women veterans of all eras, increasing support, decreasing isolation, providing reliable information and resources, and helping them to find camaraderie in the community," said Tara Galovski, associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Women's Health Sciences Division.

WoVeN will hold 10 weekly 90-minute sessions for groups of eight to 10 veterans that will begin with conversational exercises to get them talking and will include an educational component, a guided discussion, and a social activity, such as a group walk.

Connecting with other women who have shared some of those similar experiences can be really important in helping women veterans to get where they want to be in terms of well-being.

The BU researchers are "taking their vast understanding of veterans' experiences to the field and testing out more of a veteran-to-veteran network, female veterans working to build a bridge and support one another," says Kathy Cox, a Walmart Giving senior manager who focuses on veterans' issues.

This summer, the BU researchers are working with focus groups, preparing program materials, and training peer leaders for a pilot program that will begin in August in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; San Antonio, Texas; and Charlotte, North Carolina. After refining the plan based on the pilot-group experience, they will expand to eight cities in early 2018, and ultimately to anywhere there's a need.

Related: For Veterans, Help Is Finally Here

The researchers will measure the effects of WoVeN sessions with regular checks on the participants' success. They plan to include veterans who have been in civilian life for some time as well as those whose deployments ended recently.

In the next phase of the project, the team will develop an interactive educational website designed for women veterans who cannot participate in WoVeN groups in person.

Related: Grandmother Writes 7,000 Letters to Our Troops

"This program, which is one of many operating through our school's Center for Military and Post Deployment Health, will make a real difference for women readjusting to civilian life," says Karen Antman, medical dean and provost of the Medical Campus.

The grant is part of a $40 million commitment by Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to support job training, education, and innovative programs to aid veterans returning to civilian life. It is the foundation's first grant to Boston University.

Dr. Katherine (Kat) Harris is a veteran spouse, expat, and former military contractor with over 20 years of expertise in military/family transition, career counseling, higher education, organizational strategic planning, and international relations. An OpsLens contributor, she has conducted seminars and workshops for many Department of Army commands. She served as a translator and liaison for American, British, French, and German civilian/military communities in Berlin and Helmstedt, Germany. This OpsLens article is used by permission.

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