Dear Funders…

Written by Heather Ehle, CEO and Founder of Project Sanctuary.

Dear Funders…STOP funding retreats.

That’s right. After eleven years of fighting tooth and nail to get our foot in the door, just to be denied funding over and over again because “We don’t fund retreats,” I am over it. Fine. We get it. Please, do not fund retreats.

Many programs ONLY provide retreat-based services. They don’t offer a therapeutic component, or a professional staff, or any classes at all. They don’t offer a two-year follow-up program that is human centered and that is designed and led by an actual social worker.

Don’t get me wrong:  in my opinion, anyone offering services to veterans – and especially to military families – is doing something good. Most retreat-only programs go fishing, sing “Kumbaya,” and call it a day. They are often open just to veterans, and typically last only two or three days. Do these programs work? Of course they do! They get veterans out of the house. It’s called CONNECTEDNESS.

Suicide rates are close to epidemic levels now. Speaking with the CDC and their injury center, they surprisingly got it. They are studying veterans and suicide prevention programs that work. It boils down to reconnecting veterans to their families, to their communities, and to a purpose. By focusing on each individual veteran, programs that tailor the solutions to meet the needs of that individual are standing out.

Guess what Project Sanctuary has been doing for the past eleven years? We believe that everyone has the ability to heal. We believe that everyone deserves hope. By focusing on building relationships and trust, we can walk alongside these veterans and military families for YEARS providing the support and services they need. And here is the kicker:  guess how we form that trust and those lasting bonds? Guess how we are able to get to know how each needs to heal? The magic happens at our six-day therapeutic retreats guided by a full therapeutic and professional staff.

So, stop funding retreats. Seriously, we get it and we respect your thinking.  But don’t brush us aside just because we use a therapeutic retreat as a modality to provide a human-centered, carefully designed program that focuses on long-term outcomes. The 2,200 families waiting to enter our two-year program can’t all be wrong.

In closing, I am thankful for the visionary funders that do walk alongside us and our military families. And I do feel optimistic and a bit like John Lennon:  “I hope someday you will join us, and the world will be as one.”

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