The Pepper Pod Retreat Centre is dedicated to supporting the mental well-being of women veterans, soon-to-be veterans and spouses of the military and RCMP, through the offering of a host of resources and programming aimed at building a strong female veteran community. The Transition Lifeshops, which are at the heart of our centre’s work, are aimed at connecting and supporting women through the transition from military to civilian life. The essential elements of this retreat, developed over 50 years ago, with over 5000 participants who have attended, uses neuro-linguistic programming tools to tap into limiting beliefs, meta programs, stress triggers and patterns.
Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel, Le Régiment de Hull, Sandra Perron, founder of the Pepper Pod and the first female infantry officer in Canada, runs and facilitates these weekend-long workshops, which are packed with activities that create a safe space for participants to share their life experiences, challenges, hopes, ambitions and healing. Her vision, to build a sanctuary for women from the veteran community, has grown through her own experiences in the military as well as years of traveling to run these retreats at military bases across the country. Her mission, to build a network of empowered women and promote diversity in the military is firmly rooted in the belief that women from the military community all share a unique cultural experience that can be valuable when shared with other women who are transitioning out of the military. As we currently have long lists of women waiting for a spot in one of our Lifeshops, our hope is to increase our capacity to enhance their accessibility and to build new programming to strengthen mental health and well-being supports for veteran women and their families.
The Pepper Pod’s mission is rooted in the belief that women from the military and RCMP community all share a unique cultural experience that can be valuable when shared with other women who are transitioning out of the military or police force.
We offer Transition Lifeshops for veteran and soon-to-be-veteran women, and spouses of members of the military and RCMP community. With close to 100 women on waiting lists, each Lifeshop is led and facilitated by Sandra Perron. Each runs over two days and two nights at the Pepper Pod Retreat Centre and is packed with activities that create a safe space for participants to share their life experiences, challenges, hopes, ambitions and healing.
The participants are put through a series of exercises that will enable them to:
-Recognize how transitions challenge our sense of identity.
-Embrace transitions as a wonderful opportunity for growth.
-Remind participants why they chose to make the change.
-Learn to create mind-maps as a way forward to eliminate limiting beliefs.
-Identify and build a unique support system.
-Become vulnerable and connected to the other participants in the Lifeshop™.
The essential elements of this retreat was developed 50 years ago by Marcellin Perron in Dolbeau, Quebec. More than 5000 participants, both men and women, have attended the retreats which continue to be held to this day. The retreat uses neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) tools to tap into limiting beliefs, meta-programs, and to help identify stress triggers and patterns. It is an opportunity to connect with other participants at a very deep level, to develop profound friendships within only a few days, and to pull on resources that will enable participants to lean on one another through challenging transitions. Over the next year, Lifeshop facilitators will also travel out to other regions of the country and offer Lifeshops at the different military bases (e.g. Comox, Gagetown, Wainwright) to increase accessibility to our services.
The Lifeshops are part of the core programming at the Pepper Pod. In addition to this, we hold a number of other events including, retreat getwaways for Lifeshop graduates (“No Agenda Weekends”), networking events (cocktail evenings, Wonder Women Wednesdays, She-Shed sales events), skills and professional development training (coaching workshops, mind mapping workshops), and other networking events (seasonal parties, work parties) and more.
With 10-12 beds available, the Pepper Pod also offers 1-2 week stays for women veterans who need an immediate refuge, either due to burn-out or exhaustion, abusive relationships, or simply just to get through a tough time during their transition.
Having opened its doors in September 2021, the Pepper Pod will be celebrating its one-year anniversary, the Pepper Pod Gala “An Evening in the Forest”, on September 10, 2022 at the Canadian War Museum. More information and tickets are available at the Pepper Pod website.
The Pepper Pod maintains confidential records of all those who have participated in Transition Lifeshops, including general demographic information. Feedback is collected from participants after each Lifeshop as well as other events. Graduates of the Lifeshops attend one follow up session hosted by the Pepper Pod. Lifeshop Part 2 sessions are currently being developed and planned.
All the planned Transition Lifeshops are held at full capacity and waiting lists keep growing. The newly formed Lifeshop groups keep connecting either physically or virtually (e.g. via Facebook or other platforms) after their retreat. The programming offered by the Pepper Pod have grown signficantly since the September 2021 opening (despite the challenges of the pandemic). Women keep sharing their stories and connecting with the larger military familiy. There is a high rate of return of women who come back to participate in Pepper Pod events.