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The Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) is excited to announce its partnership with Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta in the Rejuvenation Project.
Practitioners of various holistic health treatments will provide complimentary holistic health treatments to caregivers and their families who are staying at the House. This project will support individuals who have very little time to devote to their own well-being.
Self-care plays a vital role in a caretaker's ability to support a child in need. It is much like putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others put on theirs: if you don't take the time to you need to be mentally and emotionally healthy, it is very difficult to support others in their time of need.
Caretakers and their family members are encouraged to take part in the opportunity for rest and relaxation the Rejuvenation Program offers to them. Supporting parents to reduce their stress levels helps them care for their sick child.
Leisa Bellmore, an NHPC registered Shiatsu therapist in Toronto, has been volunteering with the Ronald McDonald House for 16 years.
Shiatsu is a Japanese therapy that uses thumb and finger pressure to effect therapeutic changes to the energy flow in the body. It is used to improve and maintain health and to treat specific chronic and acute conditions. It can positively impact short and long-term stress levels, anxiety, tension, sleep disturbances and pain.
"Taking time for healthcare, whether with self-care or through a treatment, allows people who are experiencing on-going stress to take some control back into their lives," says Leisa.
Families of the house are pulled away from their homes, their jobs and their support networks. They face a future of uncertainty; not knowing whether good or bad news is coming or when they will get to go home.
"Taking time for self-care allows people who are experiencing on-going stress to take some control back into their lives."
Leisa explains that often the time spent during a treatment is the only time the families of the Ronald McDonald House are able to focus on themselves.
"Family members supporting an ill child have to be strong all the time. They work tirelessly to appear positive and optimistic for their families, when in reality they can be exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed," explains Leisa.
Her treatments offer both a physical and emotional space for caregivers to fully focus on themselves and their own needs.
Leisa has experienced amazing moments during her time serving long-term and returning families of Ronald McDonald House Toronto. "I particularly remember a mother, who I had been working with for a while, coming into her treatment and she was just glowing," Leisa shares.
"She had finally been able to hold her baby without wearing full protective gear. She was overwhelmed with the joy of being able to kiss her baby — to feel his skin. So many of us take that type of bonding for granted. It was amazing to share that moment with her."
In addition to working with family members, Leisa also works with children who are receiving medical care. She has offered Shiatsu treatments to children who have rare types of cancer, cardiac conditions, and the recipients of kidney transplants and double lung transplants.
"While it can be difficult and sad, the benefits of volunteering far outweigh the hard times," says Leisa. "I feel a deep sense of satisfaction from my work with these families, and it is a privilege to offer support in their time of need."
Leisa also encourages self-care for her clients by providing them with stretches or acupressure points they can practise on their own. "The pressure on these families is immense," says Leisa. "It is important for them to have tools to care for themselves."
"People here are going through so much. It's just nice to be able to take them out of that space for a little bit and help them relax."
NHPC member and massage therapist, Brian Jordan, volunteers for the Rejuvenation Program. He says it has been very rewarding for him as a therapist to be able to give back to his community in this way.
"People here are going through so much. It's just nice to be able to take them out of that space for a little bit and help them relax," says Brian.
He explains that for these families, taking the time to reconnect with themselves through massage can help relieve a tremendous amount of stress. "It can help someone achieve clarity and peace of mind in an otherwise turbulent and emotional time."
To learn more about holistic health practices or to find a practitioner, see the NHPC Holistic Health Guide and the Health Provider Directory. To learn more about volunteering for the Rejuvenation Program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.