“I never knew anyone else felt this way. There are so many who don’t understand. Some even judge. I thought I was all alone — I was about to give up — until you shared. Now I have hope.” The frustration and fervent thank you expressed in these words from a caregiver spouse to a caregiver supporter captures the essence of the connection those providing care for our veterans seek — the consoling compassion and trustworthy truthfulness of peers who are also walking their journey. Their challenge has been to find these peers. That challenge is being further addressed this week with the launch of what we are calling the Peer Mentor Program to strengthen the secure, caregiver-only, Online Community of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Network (MVCN).
An informal, self-help underground has existed among many of the caregivers of our nation’s wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. They are problem-solvers who are champions at applying every ounce of their ingenuity and tenacity to support those they love, keep their families intact and do what’s right and best. But spread out across the country and frequently alone in their community, the veteran family has found it hard to locate and truly connect with others living a similar experience.
Now these caregivers can find, and be found, by their peers through a site that offers best-practice peer support training and matching, as well as access to a master calendar and resource library that lists thousands of activities and resources available across the country. Regardless of their veteran’s era of service, their relationship to their veteran or their location, they can now come together in safety to share their most private of fears and be matched with a peer who has walked in their shoes..