This is the first of my newly themed Friday posts, Loving and Giving, where I will highlight an individual or organization that seeks to better the lives of their fellow human beings. They do so by hands-on acts of kindness and rescue or by choosing to bring to light a dark aspect of the human conflict in the world.
The War Amps
This first in this series, I am going to t discuss The War Amps. This is an organization I have supported financially on and off over the years.
Formed by a group of First World War amputees, the organization was created to fight for the rights of amputees and support them in their ongoing struggles. One of the founding veterans was Curley Christian, a soldier at Vimy Ridge who survived and returned to Canada as a quadruple amputee, the only quadruple amputee to survive World War I.
Over the past century, the organization has expanded its mandate to include not just seriously disabled war veterans and amputees but also civilian adult and child amputees through the various programs they have developed (which you will find listed below).
For military veterans, they provide assistance in navigating the financial benefits available to them and accessing services to support them in their new life’s challenges.
For adult and child amputees, the War Amps offers financial assistance and services to navigate life living with an amputation.
As the child of an amputee, I came to an early awareness of this organization and the struggles amputees face. It is not an easy reality for anyone at any age to face and copes with. My dad struggled when he first lost his arm. He was a young man in his late twenties with a young family. At first, he wasn’t able to see beyond his loss and how it might affect his ability to support his family. I am proud to say, that my father did face with strength and creativity life as an amputee.
My dad lost his entire arm, having it torn from the socket in an industrial accident that nearly took his life. He was not able to have a prosthetic limb because there was nothing to attach it to. The War Amps were not involved in my dad’s story, but I still support them as the child of an amputee. Towards the end of my father’s life, when he was spending time in hospitals, he heard about a young man in the hospital who had recently lost his hand in a farm accident. My father went to visit that young man and told him about all he was able to do with only one hand, and how much more the young man would be able to do with a prosthetic device. Being able to share his story, how he overcame his loss, he was able to encourage that young man.
I never knew my dad to be limited by his amputation. The only thing he could not figure out how to do was shovel snow. He could never get leverage on the shovel. He created and designed a number of tools to assist him in day-to-day tasks. My dad figured out how to tie his shoes with one hand, and he taught me. He passed when I was ten, but I can still tie my shoelaces with one hand.
My dad owned a service station in our small village in Northwestern Ontario. He was a mechanic and a welder, and very good at both.
There is a story I’ve been told about an American couple who were passing through Kakabeka Falls on their way back south of the border. They had a flat tire and sought assistance in my dad’s garage. He changed and fixed their tire, much to their amazement, considering his lack of two arms. Sometime later, a letter of thanks arrived at the post office addressed to the One-Armed Man at the Texaco Station.
Life with amputation and disability, no matter how it came about, need not be hopeless and without support. Did you know if you were to suffer the loss of a limb, many times you are not sufficiently covered by your provincial health plan or private insurance company, if at all, depending on which province you live in? It is not an easy transition from able to disabled, but The War Amps has 100 years of experience help both veterans and civilians alike in finding their way in their new reality.
How to help The War Amps
Here is a list of the initiatives that The War Amps undertakes:
CHAMP Program – Meeting the many needs of child amputees
Playsafe – Child Safety program – by kids for kids
Drivesafe – Promoting safe driving to prevent injuries due to accidents
Matching Mothers Program – support from CHAMP families who have been there
Jumpstart – Specialized assistance for children with multiple amputations
National Service Bureau – meeting the needs of war amputees and seriously disabled veterans
Advocacy – Ensuring the rights and interests of amputees
Operation Legacy – Passing the Remembrance message to younger generations
Adult Amputee Program – Funding artificial limbs for adult amputees
National Amputee Centre – Educating amputees and their families on all aspects of amputation
Sheltered Workshop – Employing people with disabilities
How can you help The War Amps in their work?
If you are in the Victoria area and you enjoy going to the theatre, this weekend at Langham Court Theatre is a production titled Lessons. All proceeds from this production, set on Washington’s Bainbridge Island, benefit The War Amps Child Amputee Program.
Show Times: Saturday and Monday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Here is a synopsis:
When Ben finally decides to have a Bar Mitzvah (at his age!) he hires Ruth, a Rabbi who’s lost her faith, to tutor him. The two characters forge a friendship as they each search for healing and forgiveness while wrestling with their own deep-rooted problems. A touching, funny and poignant drama.
If you are unable to go to the play this weekend you can support The War Amps by subscribing to their Key Tag Program and Address Label Service – the organization provides a Key Tag so that if your keys are ever lost, they just might find their way back to you; and personalized address labels. I receive both every year and send in a donation. The Key Tag and Address Label programs are funded by donations only, they do not receive any government grants.
Here is their contact information:
The War Amps BC, Key Tag Service
PO Box 5500, Station B
Victoria BC V8R 6S1
If you ever want to thank and support our wounded military men and women, this is just one of the ways to get involved.