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Review for Starfish Foundation Inc, Milwaukee, WI, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

My role was two-fold: I was on the staff as well as being there to observe and write about the Vets Journey Home. I have been to other retreats/weekends for veterans and families and this was unique in many ways. Because the group was so small -- 8 partipants and about a dozen staff members -- there was an intimacy that helped establish an atmostphere of safety and trust that is crucial if there is to be kind of opening up and healing over a short space of time. All the veterans were dealing with issues relating to trauma and therefore, so were their spouses. Patricia Clason is obviously highly skilled in her work, and it became apparent almost immediately, that the particpants were in good hands. She set the tone of safety and trust, of strong boundaries and structure from the beginning and was consistent throughout the weekend. For this community, who all struggle with trust and safety issues, this was crucial. Facilitator Judge Mattocks' skill, wisdom and compassion was evident throughout, as he helped the particpants through some difficult and painful process work. All the staff members showed a level of caring and compassion that was palpable, and the particpants seemed to feel it throughout the weekend. Because the process work is so intense and can be so depleting, it was very important that there be times of refueling and restoring. Mealtime was one of those times. The food was not only delicious but was prepared with love by staff volunteers. For the veterans who have experienced the ripple effects of trauma and a sense of being betrayed and not being cared about, this was important and meaningful. Mealtime provided an opportunity for laughter and letting down, for staff and participants to get to know and enjoy each other. The weather made it difficult to have time outdoors to walk, rest and restore. More time in the fresh air would have been good.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Knowing that I can recommend this organization and program to other veterans and their families. Also, the use of ceremony during the weekend was a powerful and healing tool, experienced not only by the participants but the staff, including me.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

In terms of the structure of the weekend, I would have Friday night be a shorter, earlier night, after people have had a busy week, have traveled and are tired.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

The people: their dedication and level of commitment and their kindness.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Willing to be honest. And they were so courageous. Their honesty and courage have inspired me.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Pay for veterans and their families to travel from all over the country and participate. It could pay for weekend retreats where the accomodations are comfortable, restful and nurturing.

Ways to make it better...

I had known a little more about the process work in advance. Most of the staff volunteers were experienced but it would have helped to know a little more about what to expect.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Probably funding.

One thing I'd also say is that...

It needs to stay "small" in terms of small groups of participants. It needs to stay personal, intimate, "hands-on".

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

One time

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?


Role:  Volunteer & I helped keep the room organized and helped see that the particpants were comfortable.