In a campaign to look after those who look after communities, a camouflage Humvee is crossing the province to raise awareness of the support available for emergency workers mentally impacted on the front lines.
The Honour House Society’s Tour of Honour is fundraising and trying to spread the word about two charities that help Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, first responders and their families in their time of need.
Those two charities are the Metro Vancouver-based Honour House, which provides a home away from home for up to 11 families free of cost as the members receive medical care, and the Honour Ranch, which hosts programs that help members dealing with severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Running into harm’s way or responding to the toxic drug crisis takes its toll on front-line responders’ mental health, while the pandemic and widespread staff shortages have only compounded those impacts, according to Honour House Society’s president.
“You can start seeing, especially this last year, the psychological injuries that they are experiencing because of that and hence suicide rate is up,” Allan De Genova said.
The 90-day tour is about two weeks in as the Humvee makes its way to military bases, legions, fire halls and police stations across B.C. and the Yukon.
Awareness is the focus along the route as De Genova said many service members don’t know about Honour House and Honour Ranch.
The tour met with Victoria first responders Monday morning before heading to the legislature to get the message to MLAs from every corner of B.C. It will also make a stop at CFB Esquimalt on Tuesday.
“The awareness that we’ve brought in our first 12 days here has been immense in support,” De Genova said outside the legislature.
“In some cases, you can see the relief in (members’) eyes knowing that there are people there that care unconditionally to help look after them.”
During the 2021 wildfires that destroyed Lytton, De Genova said 21 First Nations responders from the region lost their homes as they continued to fight the blazes. Those efforts helped save the Honour Ranch from the flames, but the society’s president said the members suffered from PTSD upon returning home to nothing after fighting the fires day and night.
“They know we were there for them and they were there for us.”
Even at tour stops where there could be 100 members in one room, De Genova can pick out individuals who are struggling. He hopes to get more information out about the facilities, which have already helped thousands of people, while also advocating about how families of members also face impacts and how volunteer ranks may not receive the same amount of support.
The volunteer-run non-profit society is fundraising for its programs along the tour by selling raffle tickets, and those wanting to support can also visit honourhouse.ca.