PROJECT COHORT – MEETING AN URGENT NEED TO SUPPORT VETERANS
Fifteen years after 9/11, our Nation’s military continues to fight a War on Terror, suffering over 40,000 casualties during the longest war in our Nation’s history. According to the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 225,000 post-9/11 Veterans will return to their communities in 2016, joining the 2.8 million who have already returned home. The average age of the post-9/11 Veteran population is 33.
Project Cohort was designed by nationally recognized experts in resilience building and recovery to help these Veterans transition to healthy, purposeful civilian lives. The program creates closely bonded groups of fellow Veterans – Cohorts – that work together over a significant period of time to provide the support and camaraderie that Veterans lose when they leave military service. Project Cohort team members provide on-the-ground leadership to the cohort, consistently encouraging participants to assess their individual needs and take concrete steps to improve their lives. Veterans experience a series of workshops, outdoor programs, and community service projects. Each Veteran learns what works best for them while engaging in small group-based physical challenges and reflection about their mental health. Project Cohort consists of three phases: an outdoor phase, an education phase and a health and wellness phase.
There are currently two versions of PROJECT COHORT:
1. College Cohort. This version of Project Cohort is designed for enrolled students at a University or College. Cohorts are created at a single school, i.e. Texas State Cohort, where all members must be enrolled at that school. Criteria to participate: must meet their school's definition of Veteran to apply
2. Street Cohort. This version of Project Cohort is led by Veterans in any type of community. Participants will come from all walks of life, but share in the universality of being a Veteran. Criteria to participate: must be considered a Veteran in accordance with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to apply.
Each Cohort is offered an opportunity to participate in therapeutic programs during their tenure. Therapeutic programs are designed to increase the Veterans' emotional health, directly addressing a known shortfall in transition from military to civilian life.
Each cohort participates in a six-day wilderness expedition or service immersion experience where trained peer leaders guide the Veterans through challenges and reflection that lay a foundation of cooperation and camaraderie for the months to come. This is a key phase in Project Cohort, establishing the emotional bonds that will allow for continuing strong social support within the cohort. Cohort’s go on monthly one- to two-day outdoor or service experiences to continue building camaraderie and engage in purposeful experiences.
The Education workshops following the outdoor expedition explore the causes and effects of post-traumatic stress, depression, alcohol and drug abuse and other issues that concern Veterans and their families. Project Rebirth films, which chronicle personal stories of post-9/11 recovery in New York City are at the heart of our post- traumatic stress awareness training. The films show real people sharing their journeys through grief, trauma and loss and their recovery over time. The education phase empowers Veterans and their families to face their own challenges and to make informed decisions concerning health care and/or alternative therapies.
health and wellness phase
The Health and Wellness Plan is the recovery backbone or guiding framework for each veteran's recovery plan within the domains of mind, body, spirit, social, and professional/educational. The mind domain includes Veterans' mental health related to thoughts, emotions, and reactions to people/places/objects/memories. The body domain includes Veterans' physical health related to pain, weight, endurance, desire to learn new physical skills, exercise, and manage medical problems. The spiritual domain includes identifying one's purpose in life, core values, and belief systems about life, identity, and life vision. The social domain includes relationships with family, relationships with friendships, relationships with romantic partners, intimacy/trust with friends/family/partners, interpersonal communication, and how to enjoy time with other/fun. The professional/educational domain includes meaningful work, volunteer, or educational opportunities. Veterans, with the help of peer leaders, set individualized goals within each of these five domains. The peer leaders and fellow group members help hold each veteran accountable to their goals and helps them achieve their goals as a team.
Project Cohort is a pilot program operating at six different locations across the country and is designed to create effective and replicable methods for improving the lives of Veterans and their families. Once fully tested and validated, these methods and practices will be freely shared. Project Rebirth is partnering with Georgetown University to study how Project Cohort impacts Veterans in the areas of depression, sense of belonging and loneliness, anxiety and resilience. Rigorous design and execution of the research will ensure that we accurately capture these psycho-social effects over a meaningful period of time.
Real change takes time, commitment, and ongoing support. Project Cohort is a results-based approach to Veteran care that will provide long-term continuous care through both professional and peer support.
Project Cohort is currently working with Georgetown University, Felician University and Texas State creating small teams of Veterans, the Cohort, who participate in Veterans education, wilderness adventure and humanitarian service missions during the school year. Please watch the video below which demonstrates why Project Cohort should exist on college campuses.
Directed by Georgetown University students Neve Schadler and Christopher Buffone. Taking a close look at the lives and memories of three contemporary Veterans, "How Can I Tell You About War" reveals the complexities of identifying as a student-Veteran re-acclimating into society.
Project Rebirth (www.projectrebirth.org) is the founding organization behind Project Cohort.
Project Rebirth helps people find hope. Founded shortly after 9/11, Project Rebirth produced 11 films around the common theme of resilience and recovery in New York City: one full length award winning documentary, one immersive exhibit housed in the National September 11th Memorial Museum, and nine short films that chronicle the recovery of nine New Yorkers directly affected by 9/11.
With the opening of the 9/11 Museum in the Spring of 2014, Project Rebirth completed a transition into an educational and social research non-profit. We use the stories from 9/11 captured in our films as core elements for educational programs in middle schools and high schools. We also partner with like-minded organizations in the veteran community, designing educational and therapeutic programs that assist in recovery and transition.
In 2015 we directly reached over 20,000 students and veterans with our educational and therapeutic programs. With our current strategy, we anticipate directly reaching over 100,000 students and veterans in 2016.
Georgetown University (www.georgetown.edu) is a founding member of Project Cohort. GU has worked closely with Project Rebirth since early 2002. With numerous GU alums as past and present Project Rebirth Board Members (including GU President John J DeGioia) Project Rebirth's links to GU are deep and durable. Georgetown will serve as the academic home for the research component of Project Cohort and Georgetown students will participate in data collection and analysis.
HEART 9/11 (www.heart911.org) is a founding member of Project Cohort. FDNY, NYPD, PAPD and the NYC Building Trades, recognized the world over, have come to define the safety, security and spirit of New York City - these are the expert volunteers of HEART 9/11. From the ashes of 9/11, this team leverages their unparalleled experience, including the extensive WTC site response and recovery, to respond and rebuild in times of crisis. Bill Keegan, HEART 9/11’s Founder and Project Rebirth board member, is providing an extraordinary opportunity for Project Cohort participants to fulfill the service component of their program while learning new skills and building a shared sense of purpose.
MyCounterpane (www.mycounterpane.com) provides a platform for patients and caregivers dealing with a chronic illness to tell their story based on how they feel. By doing so, each personal journey is broken into moments, and those moments can be easily searched. MyCounterpane has partnered with Project Cohort to design a service for Veterans and their families. During your time with Project Cohort you will be asked to participate in this effort by using existing services and providing feedback during the design of MyCounterpane for Veterans.
Caldwell Ranch is a founding member of Project Cohort. With over 35,000 acres of West Texas wilderness, Cohorts who are able to visit Caldwell Ranch will experience a pristine part of our country free from the nuisance of things like people and electricity. You can truly see stars from horizon to horizon and bond as a team over a 6-7 day expedition exploring the wilds of West Texas.
For more information or to apply, email a Project Cohort team member: firstname.lastname@example.org