According to the Women Veterans Task Force of the Department of Veterans Affairs, women make up the fastest growing group of veterans – more than 10% of the total U.S. Veteran population in 2015. Women also now take part in active combat. As a result, they suffer injuries similar to those experienced by male soldiers.
But these women veterans have very different needs with higher service-connected disabilities than males. They also have higher incidences Military Sexual Trauma (MST). One in five female vets who use the VA for health care is identified as suffering from MST as a result of rape, harassment, or assault. This can lead to additional problems, such as depression, substance abuse, and PTSD. Women vets suffering from MST are four times more likely to have PTSD and six times more likely to have multiple mental health conditions.
Making A Difference Foundation knows we can’t take away the trauma and experiences these women faced, but we can give them a sense of understanding, compassion, empathy, and purpose while they reintegrate back into civilian life. We can give them something to feel good about, take pride in, and give them a way to fulfill their sense of duty, caring, and service to others through Blair’s Sanctuary Garden.
Blair’s Sanctuary Garden is a place for women veterans to grow in serenity, acceptance, peace, and empowerment – without judgment – while raising organic and healthy food for people in need. It is both therapeutic and collaborative in nature where women veterans not only learn about sustainable crop management and growing food organically using true “farm to table” methods, but the provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the community of Tacoma’s east side through MADF’s Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank.
The women also gain a sense of comradery they didn’t get in the military. According to an in-depth article in the New York Times Magazine, interviewees reported they avoided friendships with other women during their deployment, in part because there were fewer women to choose from and in part because of the ridicule that came with having a close friend and being classified very harshly by their male counterparts.
Female veterans need the bonding with other female veterans who understand and know their experiences first hand. They need a safe, serene place to come and be with other brave, honorable women to feel supported, talk about their experiences without judgment, and heal.
Blair’s Sanctuary Garden focuses on clients’ self-esteem, self-reliance, and empowerment. The women can come together through common experience, build positive relationships, and gain the therapeutic benefits of gardening and working in the soil. Gardening of all types has been proven to have a calming and meditative effect on the psyche. It’s a great stress reliever and can even lessen depression and symptoms of PTSD. The grant from Disabled Veterans National Foundation is enabled women veterans to learn new gardening skills as they empower themselves and grow a sustainable food source year-round.