Imagine you are in the military.
You’ve just returned home from being away from your family for quite some time, and you want nothing more than to reconnect with your partner and your children. But sometimes, that’s really difficult to do. Sometimes, moms and dads lack the strength or ability to hold their children close for long periods of time. Sometimes an injury prevents that. Sometimes that emotional connection is a struggle after facing a lot of stress and/or trauma. The Carrying On Project can help you.
Imagine you are a military spouse.
Your best friend is deployed and you are at home raising your children by yourself. Maybe you have more than one child to care for and love on and hold, and your two hands feel very inadequate to be able to do all things things and care for all the people who need you. Maybe you don’t have family nearby to help. Maybe you just moved (again) to a new place and feel very lonely. The Carrying On Project can help you.
Babywearing can help military families to work through that transition period with love and closeness, while leaving hands free. The problem is, not all military families can obtain a carrier that is right for their bodies or their needs. That’s where The Carrying On Project comes in. The Carrying On Project provides free carriers for military families who need and want them.
“THE CARRYING ON PROJECT[‘S GOAL IS] TO GET [BABY] CARRIERS TO THE FAMILIES OF OUR MILITARY SO THAT THEY MAY BETTER OBTAIN SECURE ATTACHMENTS WITH THEIR CHILDREN, SOMETHING THAT DEPLOYMENT AND INJURIES WILL OFTEN INTERRUPT.
WE SEEK TO ASSIST BOTH THE SERVICE MEMBERS AND THE FAMILIES LEFT BEHIND IN ‘CARRYING ON’ WHILE BOTH HOME AND AWAY, TO MAKE SOMETHING THAT IS DIFFICULT FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY A LITTLE BIT EASIER.”
But TCOP does not just provide carriers for families who need them, they also provide a very much needed support system for the families they serve. TCOP playdates are hosted all over the US and also abroad in Japan and soon in Germany. Families meet and have the opportunity for community and friendship and in person support and even babywearing education if needed.
“NO ONE IS MEANT TO GO AT THIS MILITARY LIFE ALONE, AND WHILE OUR SERVICE MEMBERS HAVE THEIR UNITS AND THEIR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN ARMS, SO SHOULD OUR SPOUSES HAVE A FAMILY THEY CAN COUNT ON.”
All of these services are provided through the work and generosity of donations and volunteers. It is people like you can make a difference in a military family’s life through your involvement with The Carrying On Project.
HOW CAN I HELP?
1. Shop at Fluff & Familia July 4th-15th. We will be donating 10% of all sales during that time to The Carrying On Project.
2. Donate money directly to TCOP.Your donation will help cover shipping costs and purchase carriers for military families.
3. Donate your new or gently used carrier to TCOP by contacting them and letting them know what you have to donate. TCOP is always in the market for carriers, new or preloved. Visit the TCOP website to see if there is a local playgroup in your area; you can bring the carrier to the playgroup and donate it there. If there isn’t one in your area, contact TCOP to arrange the best way to ship the carrier.
4. Donate your time or talents! Contact TCOP and let them know how you are available to help. TCOP accepts goods and services that local groups can use for fundraisers, such as photography sessions or items that can be raffled or placed in mystery boxes in the TCOP shop.
5. Shop the TCOP store for apparel, accessories, carriers, and more! Proceeds go directly to funding TCOP.
MEET VERONICA VANCE: A TCOP VOLUNTEER
Tell me a little about yourself!
“I am a stay at home mom of 4, ages 12, 6, 4, and 2. I breastfeed, cloth-diaper, and babywear. I’ve been in the navy for over 18 years now: 6 as active duty, 12 as a reservist, and serve as a Navy Yeoman (Administration).
My husband an I met 8 years ago while I was on recall for the Navy Reserves and stationed in Key West, FL. We’ve moved too many times to count, but have lived in FL, TN, and VA, with our next move remaining in VA until retirement.”
Here at Fluff and Familia, we like to focus on family. Can you tell me what family means to you and why?
“In my many years of service, I’ve learned that family is not always blood related, but who you trust and love and understands you while in service. I have so many “siblings” I’ve made while serving, and my kids have aunts and uncles all over the U.S. because family is those we have come across through our travels who have been there to help regardless of the situation or wherever we are.”
How has living the military family life been different than you might have imagined?
“Living life as a military family has had its difficulties, especially when leaving a location you’ve been comfortable with to leave for another you know absolutely nothing about, except what you have read on paper or online. We, as parents, have grown accustomed to it, but it is starting to affect our school age kids and their friendships. My eldest has been blessed to keep in touch with her ‘best friend’ from every location we’ve been stationed.”
What is something you’d like civilian families to know about military families/military family life?Is there a way friends/family can be more supportive/helpful?
“Please be flexible with your military family members. Society has illusions that the military folks are well paid and can come an go as they please; when in fact, it takes weeks, even months, to plan around the service member’s schedule. I don’t know how many times we’ve had to cancel or postpone visits to our families because of schedule changes or funds needing to be used for more pressing matters. The best support you can give us is your understanding and your patience; plus, keeping in touch is always great.”
How did you first hear of/get involved with The Carrying On Project?
“I heard about TCOP during Babywearing Week 2016 through a fellow military wife hosting a TCOP playdate event. I got some info, started following their page, and immediately wanted to become involved. Seeing that the local BWI group was lacking military support, I talked to fellow military spouses to try to revive the local playgroup and did so successfully, making The Carrying On Project of Hampton Roads one of the largest active playgroups.
What do you do for The Carrying On Project?
“I started volunteering as a local playgroup representative and military outreach for the Hampton Roads, VA area, but I also have helped headquarters with social media and fundraising. I am currently in the process of starting up a new playgroup when we move for my husband’s new duty station in Eastern Shore of VA.”
How is this organization significant to you?
“This group has been so wonderful to us. My son was 3 months old when my husband left for his long deployment. TCOP helped us by providing us with a carrier so that my young son could adjust to daddy being back home. That experience made me want to help other families who’ve been separated by deployments, to help moms and dads find a safe group for them to just unwind with like-minded folks and just be their village.”
What do you feel is The Carrying On Project’s mission beyond supplying the carriers to families?
“I believe that TCOP is a support group for military families, before, during, and after their service and that we help folks cope during separation. We try to reach out and aid people with PTSD by connecting them to legitimate resources for help. Though babywearing is our most visible mission, we provide so much more than just carriers, we provide a village.”
What are some often unknown benefits of babywearing specifically for military men and women?
“From personal experience, babywearing helps me cope with stress by shifting my focus to my little one rather than what is going on all around me. For my husband, it helps him reconnect with our younger two children after a separation, showing them that dad is there and won’t be going anywhere soon.”
Does The Carrying On Project help military men and women with PTSD? If yes, how so?
“We try to reach out and aid people with PTSD by connecting them to legitimate resources for help. We also help them through showing individuals how to properly babywear so that they can reconnect with their young children.”
Tell me about the playgroups!
“Most playgroups meet quarterly, and the bigger or more active groups meet monthly. Currently our largest group (Hampton Roads) hosts an average of one playdate a week. Our recent Mid-Year report stated that there are currently around 70 playgroups within TCOP with more added every year, but some of those groups are not active all year long since the really small groups meet quarterly. I’m in the process of getting my ducks in a row to start up a TCOP group in Wallops Island, VA by August. Usually, the areas with larger military installations have a bigger presence, so VA and CA, but we have groups in the US, Japan, and soon Germany. Each group is different and caters to the folks who show up. Some are just park meet-ups or hikes, some are more educational where there is a carrier library that can be borrowed and a volunteer gives peer-to-peer education on how to properly use the carriers. There are some groups that have activities, like arts and crafts or museum meet ups.”