Families encouraged to be deployment ready
PETAWAWA – With Garrison Petawawa still in high-readiness, military families are encouraged to prepare and receive support for deployments.
Here in Petawawa, military families can receive support through bilingual community-based programs and services at the Petawawa MFRC. With a goal to support the well-being of military families serving at Garrison Petawawa — including all military, regular force or reservist, along with their parents and close relatives – the site offers programs and services for families transitioning to a new community and support for a spouse whose partner is away on deployment.
In recent years, the PMFRC has made steps to expand its services by offering counselling and mental health services, an annual child care fair, their OP Family Readiness binder and their Deployment Walls.
It was three years ago that the PMFRC founded OP Family Readiness. The binder contains pages where families can secure invaluable information pertaining to their family, finances, insurance and emergency contacts while their soldier is being deployed.
“The PMFRC founded it in 2016 and now we're sharing it with other MFRCs across Canada who are taking it and making it their own,” said Frances Priest, PMFRC deployment support coordinator. “The binder includes various sections for overall deployment readiness and the families each receive a binder and fill out the pages pertinent to themselves. There’s even a section on self-care for how a spouse can continue their own routine of taking care of themselves once their soldier is gone.”
Around that same time, during the summer of 2016, PMFRC launched their inaugural Child Care Fair which welcomed hundreds of military families who were eager to learn about the various child care programs and services offered throughout the county.
Now into it’s third year, this summer’s Child Care Fair will be running in conjunction with the PMFRC’s Summer Block party, on August 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m at the South Side Community Centre. After meeting with various child care providers at their information booths families can enjoy the various of entertainment, games and activities at the Summer Block Party.
“Families can come in to meet the different childcare providers in the area and ask questions. Child care providers range from babysitters to licensed homes to centres and live-in nannies,” said Priest. “And we have the Summer Block Party which is a fun summer event that gets military families together and welcomes new families who’ve recently been posted to the area.”
Further support was founded in 2017 when the PMFRC launched the pilot project of their free Mental Health Walk-In Clinic, filling the large gap within the military community.
“This came about because we saw a strong need for it in the military family community. We did it on a pilot project and it worked where we had a walk-in clinic once a week and so we've just been able to continue it and manage it that way,” said Priest. “It’s every Wednesday and services are provided to all military families, whether they have a member deployed or not.”
This past April, the PMFRC received funding through the Department of National Defence to purchase materials and resources for Deployment Walls.
With the DND funds, the PMFRC purchased a printer and photocopier, world maps, clocks and other materials for families to use to create their Deployment Walls.
“For example, families will have a map of the world and see where their soldier will be and put a big star around that point,” said Priest. “They might have a clock set up to their soldier’s time and have a special picture of their family or just the soldier. With the photocopier and printer, families can print photos to use.”
According to Priest, the idea of a Deployment Wall is for families to feel closer to their loved one while he/she is away on a deployment. With enough supplies for 120 Deployment Walls, the PMFRC has already given out 45 and invites any other families and military spouses to create their own.
“It’s a great way to make a loved one seem closer when they are away. Some walls have have the clocks and the maps or they might use a countdown calendar. It’s something fun and visual that’s great for families to do together to keep track of their soldier’s deployment progress, make the distance feel a little shorter and make the time apart a little easier.”
Priest said the PMFRC is invaluable when it comes to new military families coming to the area and that everybody that works for the PMFRC has the veterans and their families best interests at heart.
“I compare a deployment to a pregnancy s you have to have regular check-ins and talk to people throughout the process,” said Priest. “Much like a pregnancy, a deployment is different every time because you’ve changed and you’ve grown and it’ll be a different experience. So whether it’s a family’s first deployment or sixth, I encourage them to visit the PMFRC and look at the resources and see what fits in with the needs of their family.”