The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced today Help Heal Veterans has provided nearly 50,000 craft kits, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, to more than 90 VA facilities for Veterans who are isolated.
The department’s VA Voluntary Service and Recreation Therapy Service are working with VA providers to identify Veteran inpatients and outpatients to receive the craft kits which will be accompanied by other leisure activities and information about VA programs and services.
“Part of VA’s charge is to support the positive mental health of Veterans and these crafts and leisure activities will benefit that effort,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “Help Heal Veterans offering will provide more than 70,000 hours of activity helping to keep our Veterans productively engaged — giving them a positive sense of accomplishment upon completion.”
VA recreation therapists nationwide share that Veterans living with disabilities, pain, anxiety, addiction or depression, especially during the pandemic, enjoy the craft kits and experience multiple benefits including — keeping their hands busy while helping to maintain dexterity. Many Veterans gift the finished crafts to friends, family and other Veterans. VA Peer Support Specialists have also distributed the craft kits to Veterans in the community.
Help Heal Veterans has had a long-standing partnership with VA and typically provide kits in categories such as masks, leatherwork, woodwork, jewelry, paint-by-numbers, needlecrafts, poster art, scrapbooks, model cars, airplanes, boats and more. In a recent Help Heal Veterans survey of Veterans who have used the kits, 94% polled reported the kits gave them a more positive outlook on life and 98% reported the kits divert their attention to healthy coping practices.
The therapeutic and rehabilitative benefits of crafting for VA patients is especially significant for Veterans living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries.
To learn more about recreation therapy or volunteer with VA, visit Recreation Therapy or Voluntary Service.
Good for Help Heal Veterans! May I suggest another activity that has proven benefits?
That would be GARDENING–whether it’s a flower garden for butterflies and other pollinators, a rock garden, a vegetable garden, or a “serenity garden” with trees, shrubs, flowers, and a path through it…there’s no substitute for getting your hands in the ground and improving it. I used to work with people with special needs, and they were positively gleeful every time they harvested herbs or carrots or zinnias for the vase.
People focus better, are more cooperative, and less angry when they garden. I saw this very clearly years ago when I worked with another group of “difficult” teenagers. They didn’t want to cooperate at first, but once their first plants began to grow, it was a different story. They became very protective of their plants, and wanted to see them grow. They learned patience, they learned about nature and science, and they realized there’s a whole world beyond “them” and “now”.
If you want to improve your mental and physical health, plant a garden. Exercise…sunshine…vegetables…fresh herbs–what could be better? With guidance from an expert, maybe the group could tackle re-landscaping the front of the building. Or create a new multi-layered (tree canopy, shrubs, flowers, daffodils for spring, benches, and bird baths) 1/4 acre garden with flowers in every season, and wildlife that feels at home, while ditching the high maintenance grass. Maybe you could turn an abandoned lot into a public garden? You’d be helping not only yourselves, but also your neighborhood and the planet!