“What it really tells us is you are never too old to help yourself and take care of your mental health; you are never too old to learn,” are the words chosen by CEO of Vets Canada, Jim Lowther, to describe his excitement over the latest “star” member addition to the Guitars for Vets program, Second World War veteran, Alex Polowin.
“It’s a breath of fresh air to have him with us. It shows everyone who is suffering in our community that you CAN help yourself. You CAN do this. You CAN learn new skills (and break isolation). He is a great example that there is no age limit to self-care,” added Lowther.
Polowin was first offered a guitar, just like any veterans, RCMP officers or service members that request it thru the association, but it was hard for him to master these skills because of residual pain in his hands. Guitars for Vets offered him a ukulele which he is enjoying learning thru lessons provided by volunteers in Ottawa. He even plans on using it in his school tours where he usually plays the harmonica.
“He is a real source of inspiration to other members. He is quite the star; he even has a street to his name in Ottawa. He once told me how impressed he was to see how natural the connection was with other younger veterans and current service members; how the military bond is still very much alive all those years later, with a different group of people,” explained Lowther.
Guitars for Vets recently handed its thousandth guitar. A recent fundraising show also allowed them the funds to buy 500 more. With the prospect of another show on the horizon and a faithful long-term partner in the name of Long & McQuade Musical Instruments, the program is as strong as it’s ever been in Canada. It is believed to make a great difference in fighting mental illness in service members and veterans alike. The organization is getting phone calls on a regular basis from veterans in need of help and support that find comfort in learning music.
“It’s empowering for these vets to be offered a brand new (or gently used) guitar and be able to learn on the platform of their choice – via lessons online, with a volunteer instructor via video-conference or in person as well as in group settings. We are proud to offer a wide range of possibilities to gradually integrate them in to our groups if they so desire. The fact we are vets helping vets plays a huge role in our ability to connect with them,” said the CEO.
It is possible to donate, join or volunteer to/for the Guitars for Vets program. All details for such implications can be found on this website.