Funding has been provided to bring a program crafted specifically for women veterans to Buffalo. State Assemblymember Monica Wallace appeared Wednesday at the Veterans One-Stop Center of Western New York to announce a grant has been secured to offer the Women's Veterans Network, or WoVeN, to the local community.
WoVeN is a program which includes eight weeks of 90-minute meeting sessions where women veterans are encouraged to network and bond. It also offers access to information and assistance to help complete a transition from military life to the civilian world.
"Nationally, WoVeN currently has 90 trained peer leaders. Locally, we have six women who have successfully completed this course," said Alyssa Vasquez, the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Program Manager at the Veterans One-Stop Center.
More than three dozen women, according to Vasquez, have already expressed an interest in participating.
Assemblymember Wallace delivered a ceremonial $10,000 check to Veterans One-Stop Center administrators. Speaking about WoVen, Wallace stated while transitioning from military to civilian life is a challenge for all veterans, it's even more so for women.
"For example, women veterans take an average of three months longer to find civilian employment," she said. "Many are single parents, so their transition is also accompanied by additional challenges faced by single parents such as finding housing, finding a job that fits with your child's schedule, finding child care, getting to those doctor and dental appointments."
The Veterans One-Stop Center's Buffalo facility includes a family space where children may play while their mothers participate in WoVeN. Vasquez said in the beginning the program will be offered out of the Buffalo location but they would not rule out offering sessions at its Lockport location in the future if there is enough demand.
The program manager also spoke of her own personal appreciation for a women veteran peer-to-peer network, which she has personally utilized. She gained that appreciation while undergoing her own transitional phase.
"I felt like it was unnecessary. I felt like all of us are an American flag, we don't need to be segregated. But I listened to the stories of female veterans who have felt isolated, where they felt like not a veteran, like they weren't able to acknowledge that out loud, or they've walked into the VA and somebody has automatically assumed that it was their spouse that was the veteran, not them," Vasquez said. "It's through these interactions that I've really grown to appreciate the importance of it."