The range of wellness programs to help military personnel and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) continues to expand during the Wayfinders Wellness Retreat.
Wayfinders, located on the WineGlass Ranch just southwest of town, has nearly completed renovations of the adopted home into a 100-year-old ranch home.
Programs such as equine therapy, yoga and drum circle are well established, many more have been added and the door is open to explore other ideas.
“There are many options on the table for people to choose their own path to wellness,” said Paul Wagman, co-founder of Wayfinders. “It could be music, it could be beekeeping, it could be horse therapy or connecting with spirits by working with some of our indigenous leaders.”
He says they get remarkable interest in all of their programs when they are announced. Yoga, for example, currently has a waiting list.
About two months ago, with the help of the Calgary & District Beekeepers Association, a Healing Hives program was launched. They work with a supplier to provide hives at cost price.
The program is facilitated by John Maffei, a retired responder.
“Working with bees has been his healing story,” Wagman explains.
The relationships and partnerships established for the program have been fantastic, he says. Some of the swarms and hives have been generously donated.
“We have a great story of a woman who donated her entire beehives to us. Her father was in World War II and had PTSD. She was thrilled to donate it to us.”
“We still have a wooden box of five piles and a form to pick up. We’re in a pretty healthy position to get a few hundred pounds of honey out of it this year.”
“If we winter well, we can have an effective complete program from start to finish next year. This is the kind of program we could work with our partners to get accredited.”
Wayfinders can participate in the Cochrane Farmers’ Market next summer to sell some of their products ranging from honey to art to blacksmithing.
“We have a fantastic amount of products that are a result of restoring well-being,” he says.
Yet it is the journey that is at the heart of everything Wayfinders has to offer.
“It’s very mindful. All of our workshops and programs are focused on wellness and mindfulness and so it’s really the journey of making these things and interacting with simple elements, elements of nature, and the experience is part of what we’re building on, not just the final product, but it helps us perpetuate the programs by self-funding and generating interest.”
“We will be in a good position to not only promote our programs, but also have measurable impact.”
Wayfinders has podcasts available online about mental health, resilience, and navigating the path to our best destiny. Wagman says they hope to resume his month later with an Emmy-led musician, who will discuss the different tonal ranges and impact of analog versus digital sound.
They are adding more books to their resource library to help people find a path to wellness that works best for them.
“We could certainly look at other things, and it’s up to us to do the research as colleagues who have navigated with mental health health to say, we’ve experienced that, we’ve had a good experience with that, and to our colleagues knowing that there are options because ultimately with mental wellbeing whether you are a responder, military or a member of the general public, when you are hit with a mental illness you don’t know what to do, and you don’t know what you have to do not know how to find the means because you are injured.”
The farm and grounds continue to evolve. Chris Reader, president of Wayfinders, says there are just a few tweaks and a podcast/media room to complete.
The front room has both an upright and an electric piano, and they’re hoping to find sponsors to buy guitars for their music workshops.
Reader says it would be ideal to have guitars available to first-time players to help them determine if it’s something they want to pursue.
A condition of using the ranch house is that it retains its original rustic western appearance. This is adhered to in everything from the color of the paint to the choice of furniture.
Reader was on the furniture selection committee that went room by room to determine the furnishings.
“I was the only man on the team, so I felt a bit out of place,” he chuckles. “They’d sit there and go, guess what, and I’d go, aah. No, we mean as a vet, guess what? I said, oh, that’s why I’m here.”
Work is also underway on a community garden, patio, and separate yoga platform near Jumpingpound Creek.