Volunteering is really worth it

Julie Sweeney

Julie Sweeney has created a nine-week self-help program for military spouses that addresses the thoughts and behaviour that can influence body image.

The Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) is piloting a new self-help group on Monday nights starting in January and the person behind its creation is a MFRC volunteer. 

Julie Sweeney developed the program and will act as facilitator for the sessions.

Worth Your Weight is a nine-week program that helps military spouses deal with the thoughts and behaviour that can influence body image. The weekly group doesn’t focus on diet or exercise. Instead, participants look deep inside to examine their core beliefs and the issues they have with themselves.

The idea behind the program is addressing the inside before working on the outside. 

“Body image is a common theme amongst women,” said Sweeney on why she wanted to do Worth Your Weight. She started the group to help the women that constantly belittle themselves.

The program is her latest effort in the past year to help members of the military family community.   

“Julie is making a positive impact on people’s lives by filling a need in the community,” said Marianne Ostopovich, a registered clinical counsellor and social worker at the MFRC.  “She isn’t waiting for someone else to develop a program, she is taking an active role in helping members of the community.”

Sweeney partnered with St. Peter’s Naval Chapel in January 2012 to create the Military Wives Bible Study monthly support group to fill a need in the community. The study takes place on the last Sunday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at St. Peter’s Naval Chapel in Belmont Park.

She decided to become a MFRC volunteer in March 2012 in support of her diploma in applied psychology. She got involved helping the counsellors at the MFRC and it gave her the opportunity to give back to the military family community on a deeper level. 

She helped to facilitate the Mind over Mood support group as a volunteer. After Mind over Mood finished up, she helped to run an evening, drop-in group for participants of the program.

“I am amazed at Julie’s personal growth over the past year,” said Ostopovich.  “I don’t think she expected it. She took an opportunity and ran with it.  It’s inspiring to see.”

A positive experience with the MFRC in 2011 gave her the motivation to give back as a volunteer. When her husband deployed in 2011 for four-and-a-half months in HMCS Ottawa, she really felt supported and wanted to help others.

“If you call, they’ll help but you have to take those steps,” said Sweeney of the MFRC. “You have to seek out the help. It was the best way to go through a deployment. I felt super supported. I made a lot of friends.”

All those good experiences have given her the momentum to create her own programs for the community. 

Worth Your Weight runs Monday nights from Jan. 14 to March 11 at St. Peter’s Naval Chapel in Belmont Park. Interested participants can call the MFRC at 250-363-2640. An interview will help determine if this group is right for you. Prior group experience using Cognitive Behaviour Strategies or Planned Change is recommended.  

-Jon Chabun, MFRC

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