The old saying goes, “the hardest part of climbing the mountain is arriving at the trailhead.” Once we start on the trail, we can usually just keep putting one foot in front of the other, even when the path gets steep, and complete the hike to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes along with the experience. The trick is to overcome all the excuses that keep us from ever getting started. We find it can be similar with our retreats. Many tell us something like this: “I almost didn’t make it here, and even thought about turning back on the drive, but I’m so glad I came!” Once they get here, our participants very quickly feel at home among peers with similar backgrounds, and enjoy the activities that get them out in nature or exploring challenges they have never tried. Here are some basic facts about retreats, and testimonials of people who overcame their hesitancy, stepped into the unknown, and are glad they came. We hope they encourage you to do the same.
- Since 2014, over 100 retreats have been held, serving hundreds of First Responders, Veterans, spouses/caregivers, and children from throughout New England.
- Camp Resilience retreats combine outdoor activities, facilitated peer-to-peer counseling, and life skills workshops.
- Life skills workshops are facilitated by trained volunteers and staff with years of experience working with Veteran and First Responder communities.
- Camp Resilience is devoted to tackling an array of issues affecting veterans and first responders—offering a wide variety of tailored retreats that take the healing process out of the clinic and stress the importance of camaraderie and wellness in fostering resilience and recovery. Retreats have proven great success retreats for families, couples, and veterans coping with military sexual trauma, post-traumatic stress, or moral injury.
- Some retreats are general in nature with life skills devoted to topics such as resiliency, anger management, mindfulness, wellness, and financial management. Other retreats have a specific focus such as equine assisted learning, adaptive sports, spouses and caregivers, couples, families, PTSD and moral injury, and military sexual trauma.
- Retreat activities vary by season but may include hiking, kayaking, sailing, scuba diving, aerial treetop adventure, rock climbing, biking, snowshoeing, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing.
- Costs for all participants are covered by generous grants and individual donations. Transportation to/from the retreats is not included.
Growing up in Lowell, MA in the 1970s, Ray was presented with three futures: death, prison, or the military. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1980 and found his home. Ray served in the Army for 20 years and, as a result, suffers from many painful service-related conditions. His struggles with substance abuse and social isolation have led Ray to Camp Resilience, and he emphatically states that the time away from larger society with like-minded veterans “saved his life.” Camp Resilience has been there for Ray through the deaths of partners and pets, providing an environment where he can let his guard down and encourage others on their paths to wellness as well. He has found a particular solace in our equine assisted learning retreats where he can feel at ease and “be vulnerable around the horses” in a way he cannot with others.
Marine Corps veteran Joyce is a frequent face at PRLI’s Camp Resilience. With six sessions under her belt, she is happy to say that Camp Resilience has made a huge difference in her life. Joyce’s mantra is “I would rather be better than bitter,” and Camp Resilience retreats give her a chance to learn new tools in how to “be better.” The name Camp Resilience really appealed to Joyce. “Right away you get the idea that it’s not ‘Camp Lazy.” She loves the combination of physical and mental exercise throughout the retreats and finds the atmosphere relaxing and “perfect.” Joyce has grown at each retreat she’s attended. Favorite retreat activities are the Aerial Treetop Adventures obstacle course and escape rooms—the closest she says she’ll ever get to being on a tv show like Survivor. She especially enjoys that the activities require participants to work as a team, although she has enjoyed our new artistic, socially distanced offerings such as writing and painting as well. She would pitch the retreats to other veterans like this: “This is an opportunity to get away to a place that is amazingly beautiful, at an inn with great food, activities that are a little challenging, very welcoming and friendly, and I’ll be there with you.”
Marine Corps. veteran, Nancy found out about our retreats through Facebook, and, after attending four retreats, is so grateful for Camp Resilience’s part in her wheel of support
A survivor of sexual and emotional trauma, Nancy first attended our Employability Retreat in February 2019 where she connected with NH Employment Department representatives and started down a path to vocational rehab and a communications degree.
“Retreats have taught me skills in grieving and resiliency, allowed me to step back into life, not on edge, and face fears a little bit at a time. You don’t have to use mind because your people are there.” But it’s not just the life skills workshops that Nancy finds valuable. The outdoor experiential learning activities included in each retreat, the hiking, the kayaking, teach lessons too . The repetitive and relaxing motions, the walking, the paddling, break the mind-body cycle of trauma and help the body to heal, to remember what it feels like to be calm again.
Nancy believes that we need a ritual for every service member coming off active duty “to say to the body—stand down. You have served, and you are not alone.”
Until then, there are programs like Camp Resilience to bring veterans together and become a calming, enlightening, pillar of support in their lives.
“After attending four retreats, I am so grateful for Camp Resilience’s part in my wheel of support. I first attended PRLI’s Employability Retreat in February 2019 where I was connected with NH Employment Department representatives and started down the path to vocational rehab and a degree in communications. Retreats have taught me skills in grieving and resiliency, allowed me to step back into life, not on edge, and face fears a little bit at a time. But it’s not just the workshops that are valuable. The outdoor experiential learning activities included in each retreat—the hiking, the kayaking—teach lessons too. The repetitive and relaxing motions, the walking, the paddling, break the mind-body cycle of trauma and help the body to heal, to remember what it feels like to be calm again.”