Reaching Out to Help Returning Women Veterans

Our-House-FoundationWhen Dr. Rita Spilken realized there would be a “human tsunami” of veterans returning from war zones in 2005 who would need help with health issues, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST), she started the Our House Foundation (OHF). Since then the foundation has served about 600 military personnel and their families.
With the wars continuing, the needs of returning veterans have become widely known and addressed through numerous wounded warrior programs. While OHF continues with counseling and other established programs, the foundation has decided to start a special program called, “The Athena Project” to specifically address the ever-growing aftermath of military sexual assault.
The VA reports that one in three women and one in five men have been sexually assaulted by a comrade in arms. These statistics are followed by another, equally shocking, fact – female veterans have become the fastest growing population of the homeless community throughout the US.

The Athena Project Helps Returning Women Vets Transition Back into Society

Athena Project to support Women VeteransBesides continuing to raise awareness of PTSD and MST, Our House Foundation is focused on raising funds to build a state-of-the-art reintegration facility in the heartland of America. The purpose of the facility is to enable female veterans from around the country to receive the help and treatment they deserve and need.
Through donations, sponsorships and grants, the facility will offer full range of health services and evaluations, neurological testing, individual and family psychotherapy, wellness activities and opportunities for women to learn new skills to accommodate employment opportunities.

From Combat Boots to Heels Life Expo

On Saturday, November 8, 2014, from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, Joining Community Forces and Our House Foundation will present a Life Expo at The Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell Ave. in Springfield, Missouri.
The 2014 National Champion JROTC all Female Color Guard will kick off the event, followed by numerous speakers about programs for veterans and a demonstration by Harken Kennels of service dogs for service members. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend to find out more about The Athena Project and the numerous ways we can support and honor our women veterans. Click here for the Our House Foundation contact information.

Leading Women Co-Author Writes on “Day Of The Girl Child”

RebeccaTinsley1Leading Woman co-author Rebecca Tinsley recently wrote in the Huffington Post about Mary, a ten-year-old girl in northern Uganda who was not aware the International Day of the Girl Child was October 11. Mary was not celebrating, she was in fact was being assaulted by a man who held her against her will for three days. The plight of Mary is not unusual; instead it reflects the low status of woman and girls in many traditional societies. It also highlights the powerlessness of children, as perceived by those who abuse them with impunity.
Rebecca writes, “The International Day of the Girl Child is on a par with the worthy treaties some world leaders sign and then fail to implement. 190 governments have ratified the Convention on the Rights of Children. Yet, each year three million girls in Africa alone are subject to female genital mutilation. Too many nations also turn a blind eye to the 15 million girls each year – some as young as 5 – forced into early marriage”

Working to Bring Positive Solutions To Heartbreaking Assaults on Girls And Women

A former BBC reporter and human rights activist, Rebecca founded Network for Africa to help survivors of war and genocide rebuild their lives. Network for Africa has schools and clinics in Rwanda and Uganda, and focuses on the survivors of African conflicts left behind by the world after the fighting stops and the humanitarian aid moves on. Ultimately, Network for Africa helps rebuild lives by providing people with access to education, health and the means to support themselves. Tinsley’s group is one of many doing good work in these ravaged areas, and in Huffington Post she mentions several other organizations working to bring positive solutions to heartbreaking assaults on girls and women worldwide.

To Make Long Lasting Change Empower Local Women

Through the years, Tinsley has realized that that the way to make long lasting change is to empower local women rather than simply deliver aid. Her long history of journalistic reporting and philanthropy in Africa have convinced her that cruel traditions that harm women and girls must be changed, and by working together we can change the balance of power that burdens women so unfairly.
Read more at Huffington Post.
Rebecca is one of 20 smart amazing co-authors of our new book, scheduled for release December 5, Leading Women: 20 Successful Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life. Rebecca learned about the needs of the survivors of genocide in the refugee camps and told their stories through a powerful novel, When the Stars Fall to Earth, A Novel of Africa.

Articles of Interest:

What Can We Do To Change Men’s Unhelpful Behaviors?
Empowering Women Around The World

Empowerment and Healing Through Bonding with a Horse

BraveHearts horse and young clientThe power of the horse to heal the human spirit is a realization made by anyone who has had the privilege to experience the connection with this amazing animal. Dr. Nancy O’Reilly experienced it for herself and recently met and interviewed Meggan Hill-McQueeney, the COO of BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center, located in near Chicago, Illinois.

BraveHearts’ mission is “Bringing hope, joy and unlimited possibilities through the healing power of the horse.”

BraveHearts is the largest equine-assisted program in the country. It helps the greatest numbers of veterans and also serves hundreds of children from two-years-old through adulthood and into hospice care, including various diagnoses, such as autism, paraplegic conditions and a full range of physical and mental health conditions all of which benefit from therapy with horses. Watch this feature from NBC affiliate, Channel 13 on U-Tube.

The Miracle Cure that Started BraveHearts

horse and founder of BraveHearts

Max and Marge Tautkus Gunnar

Marge Tautkus Gunnar attributes her “statistical cure” from ovarian cancer largely to her connection to her beloved Lipizzan stallion, “Max.” One day when she entered his stall, he seemed to ask where she had been. She threw her arms around his neck and he responded by wrapping his neck around hers and squeezing. This powerful emotional bond with Max gave Marge the purpose she needed to survive cancer and, six years later, to enable others to feel the healing and strength she received from Max.
She volunteered at a therapeutic riding center and saw for herself the life-changing effects: children talked for the first time, autistic children became more focused, and how people confined to wheelchairs looked down with confidence from a horse. She felt this was the true reason God had brought beautiful horses into her life and helped her survive a catastrophic illness.
On this act of faith, she founded BraveHearts in 2003, with no property or horses. It became a 501c3, non-profit corporation in 2004 and has grown ever since into the premier riding center, continually searching for more ways to  help people heal, grow, learn and find peace through working with horses.

Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies at BraveHearts

Bravehearts-4When Meggan Hill-McQueeney joined BraveHearts in 2010, she brought with her a Master Level Instructor Certification by the Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH). Meggan explains the various benefits of working with a horse in terms of either “hippotherapy”or “therapeutic riding.” Both have similar benefits, but hippotherapy is used by a licensed therapist to help the client improve her ability to function in every day life, while therapeutic riding has more recreational and competitive goals.
Meggan says that a horse provides a multi-dimensional movement: forward to back, side to side and rotational movement that makes it an excellent tool to increase a person’s core strength, control their body, balance and mid-line orientation. It also improves muscle-tone and respiratory function. In fact, riding a horse simulates human ambulation. Even if a person cannot walk, they can develop the muscle tone through riding. Of course, when a rider begins to feel confident on a horse, it increases feelings of independence and self-confidence. Even communication skills can be improved on a horse. Listen to this clip from Meggan’s interview with Dr. Nancy.

Meggan is also a Special Olympics coach and helps Bravehearts host the equine Special Olympics tournament, where mentally challenged participants are able to compete in front of thousands of people every year.

Horse training

Foundation Horsemanship in the Round Pen

Serving Veterans and Their Families

BraveHearts works with VA hospitals from all over the country, providing free therapy to veterans and their families. Veterans benefit from doing everything associated with horses. They work with a horse in a round pen and learn from the horse’s attitude toward them if they are communicating agitation associated with PTSD or some other emotion they aren’t aware of.

Veterans standing horses with BraveHearts and U.S. flags

Veterans Drill Team

There are veteran drill teams that perform in horse shows throughout the country.Even the farm has a calming effect on veterans and their families. BraveHearts hosts retreats for families, carriage riding for those who cannot ride horseback and other services. Many veterans return to Bravehearts as volunteers and work in the barns and do other work to support the work with horses.

Ways to Support Bravehearts

Actress and horse activist Betty White

Betty White visits BraveHearts

Working with horses is therapeutic for both the volunteers and the students. Just one horse takes a lot of support. BraveHearts continues to add horses to their stables and programs to help people heal and develop.
They recently purchased mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management and added proofing a horse to their curriculum. Bringing a horse from a wild state to bridle and saddle provides a learning experience for the horse and the person learning to train it.

BraveHearts Farm

20 acre farm near Harvard, Illinois

Donations to Bravehearts are tax deductible. Visit their website and see the many ways you can help.

How Can I Help? Women and Philanthropy

History of Women As Philanthropists

philanthropyWomen in America have always been agents of change even when they had few officially recognized rights. In Colonial times, women tackled a host of issues like moral reform, care of widows, children and the mentally ill, conditions for women prisoners, aid for soldiers, temperance, abolition of slavery, suffrage, libraries, the environment, culture, health issues, and more.
Women’s sense of their “place” changed dramatically in the 1800s. Women stretched to become skilled fundraisers, passionate advocates, powerful leaders, dedicated volunteers, irresistible forces for social change, and tireless workers. Women of every ethnicity joined voluntary associations to raise money and especially to care for women, widows, and girls.

Women Started Colleges and Charities

Women started Mount Holyoke Seminary, Smith College, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, American Red Cross, and YWCA to name a few. Women established three-quarters of the public libraries in the United States, many before Andrew Carnegie became involved and later to raise the 10 percent match he required. Women in the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families started the Museum of Modern Art and Whitney Museum of Art.
Despite a slump in women’s philanthropic activities from the 1920s to the 1960s, women took an active role in the Civil Rights effort, feminism, and infiltration of the workforce. The 1970s saw formation of the Ms. Foundation, the first women’s fund in the United States.

In 1980 Supreme Court Forces Men’s Clubs to Admit Women

The philanthropy arena expanded for women in the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled groups like Jaycees, Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis could no longer exclude women. It wasn’t long before women were serving as the officers running these philanthropic clubs. More recently women have organized to support equal rights for women, drunk driving laws, breast cancer research, economic development and employment opportunities for women, and many more.
In 2007 Women Moving Millions collected million dollar gifts from individual women around the world. In two years, 174 women had each made a large gift.

What Is the Status of Women and Philanthropy Today?

Today more than 140 women’s funds around the globe belong to the Women’s Funding Network, representing a collective $465 million in working assets. All across the USA, 131 United Ways have developed women’s leadership councils. Every year, more than 56,000 women volunteers in women’s leadership councils raise more than $155 million just from other women.
The National Women’s Leadership Council of United Way Worldwide (NWLC) is the largest women’s philanthropic organization in the world. It raised $1 billion dollars from women during the last 10 years, half of it during the economic downturn 2007-2011. That’s power!
Women—and the men who support their efforts—are clearly a powerful force in leadership, philanthropy and advocacy. Because they live longer than men, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute predicts women will end up in charge of much of the $41 trillion expected pass from generation to generation over the next 50 years. Single women are more likely than single men to make a philanthropic gift and women’s inclination to give influences their husbands to be more generous as well.

Look What Women Philanthropists Do To Improve the World!

improveA recent report from a senior volunteer leader for the United Way. All across the USA, 131 United Ways have developed women’s leadership councils. Ever year, more than 56,000 women volunteers in women’s leadership councils raise more than $155 million  JUST FROM OTHER WOMEN.

Women change the world for the better!

The National Women’s Leadership Council of United Way Worldwide (NWLC) is the largest women’s philanthropic organization in the world. NWLC just celebrated having raised $1 billion dollars from women during the last 10 years, half of it during the economic downturn 2007-2011. That’s amazing!
The United Ways that have instituted Women’s Leadership Councils have an overall gain in their local annual campaigns ranging from 4% to as high as 12%. It’s a market-based and carefully researched fact: involve women in leadership, philanthropy and advocacy and watch things grow.

Women Who Help Other Women Are So Amazing

FLiP Female Leaders in PhlianthropyToday I had the privilege to meet with 12 spunky, successful women who are taking their professional experience, their money and  time out of their busy schedules to help women  transition from poverty.  These are just a few of the woman who are helping other women to become self-sustaining women caring for themselves.
They are often alone in the care of their children. By simply donating gently used business clothes to give to women who need work clothes seems a simple way to help other woman.
The mentoring and the exchange that takes place between a woman who has made it and a woman who really wants a better life can be so very powerful.  There can be no better feeling watching another woman find her joy, and surprise that there are so many women who care about her well-being.

Just One Woman Helping Another – That’s All It Is

The Suit Yourself Program is not about money it is about the respect and kindness one woman gives  to another woman.  She gains  self-confidence and pride in herself.  You cannot measure any of this in dollars, gold, or any material stuff.  This is about one woman helping another woman along.  Can their be any better reward?  I think not!

A Simple Way to Help Another Woman

Do not let the day go by without helping one of your sisters along, it can be as simple as a kind word or a  pat on the back.  Make today a better place for woman by giving her a hand up……not hand out….You both will gain so much.  I am proud to say I am one of these woman and the  Women’s Initiative of the United Way can help women who have fallen on hard times pick themselves up and make better lives for themselves and their children.  We all must help to bring another woman along if we want this to be a better world for her and especially her daughter and her grand daughter.

Have a great life…Dr. Nancy
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