PTSD, Philanthropy, and Purpose
Sep 26, 2018

The number of people with mental health issues, especially post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), has risen considerably in the past decade. The majority of those suffering are military personnel and first responders – for whom memories of past experiences have become a harrowing, yet routine part of their daily lives. Camp Aftermath, an undertaking of the Aftermath Association, has taken a philanthropic healing approach to support veterans and first responders who are suffering from PTSD.

The story of Camp Aftermath begins with its Chair Farid Yaghini, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Despite ex­per­i­encing traumatic events while serving overseas, Yaghini did not develop PTSD like many of his fellow service men and women.

Mental health professionals concluded that his philanthropic deeds overseas helped him overcome the disturbing events he witnessed during active service. These deeds became his “positive anchors” during difficult moments. This realization evolved into the question: What if people suffering from PTSD could be assisted with cultivating “positive anchors” to replace the memory of negative experiences?

This question led to the formation of Camp Aftermath, where military members, veterans, and first responders suffering from PTSD embark on a two-week journey of self-healing through charitable work. In early 2019, Camp Aftermath will deploy its first Roto to Costa Rica, where participants will be provided comprehensive holistic therapy methods, self-healing activities, and opportunities to take part in charity work. The goal of each deployment is to achieve a sense of empowerment through rehabilitation, and create a seed of hope for a brighter and healthier future.

Camp Aftermath Chairman, Farid Yaghini, volunteering at an underprivileged school in Golfito, Costa Rica.

Aftermath Association’s mental health expert and volunteers conducted a run-through of the itinerary in January 2018. While some described it as a “life-altering experience”, one volunteer in particular – a veteran dealing with PTSD, emphasized the rewarding feeling of giving back, and felt that each instance was “another chance to lift the weight, and ease the pain. Each instance, an opportunity to fulfill and be fulfilled. Each time the compassion that flowed helped me along in my healing process.”

But the healing process doesn’t end there. Great emphasis has been placed on the post-deployment aspect of Camp Aftermath. With the involvement of their family members, participants will be encouraged to enroll in volunteering projects back in Canada – to sustain the sense of purpose cultivated in Costa Rica. A community of support will be built in Canada and participants will meet to discuss progress, challenges, and the resilience they’ve experienced. Camp Aftermath will facilitate all meetings for the first year and then check in periodically after that.

Projects are chosen by their sister charity in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation (CHF) has been operating in Costa Rica for over a decade and has a permanent presence at the locations where Camp Aftermath participants will be engaging in volunteerism. The CHF will provide all tools and logistics needed for the projects to be undertaken.

Camp Aftermath volunteer, Kathleen, hosting a fitness fundraiser in Toronto.

Costa Rica provides the initial environment, but the healing ties back to veterans' programs in Canada. Almost all returning participants will have chosen to volunteer for organizations supporting healing from PTSD. Studies show that people who heal from any type of suffering, find long-term management by helping others suffering from the same anguish. Camp Aftermath participants are currently volunteering for veterans programs such as: Calabogie Winter Sports Clinic; Project Trauma Support; and Adventure Warriors Canada.

The goal is to gain the funds to deploy four groups every year. The long-term objective is to build a sanctuary in Costa Rica where Camp Aftermath would house all aspects of the volunteer work. This would cut down travel time and create a hub where Camp Aftermath could have more control over all projects. The sanctuary would have farm animals and space to house underprivileged children to further their education and learn from the resilience of the participants.

Camp Aftermath with M.P. Andrew Leslie and M.P.P. Marie-France Lalonde at an Ottawa fundraiser.

The total cost of each rotation (all inclusive) for eight people, consisting of five participants, one mental health expert and two Aftermath volunteers, is quoted at CAD$44,000. Participants pay their own way (a fee of CAD$2000). This cost is meant to hold participants accountable to the itinerary of healing, and to their fellow participants in the group. Participants who do not fully participate in the itinerary will be sent home without a refund. This is meant to discourage people from taking advantage of system or from treating the excursion as a vacation. The goal is to attract those who are truly ready to engage in active philanthropy as a way of long-term management of PTSD.

The Costa Rican government is aware of the group’s activities and fully is supportive of the cause. They are not providing any financial assistance, but have approved Camp Aftermath’s mental health expert operating in Costa Rica with the participants. The Canadian government is not involved in their cause.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson (second from left) joins the Bradley Estates Community Association fundraiser with some key celebrities.

To date, Camp Aftermath has held several successful fundraising events in Ottawa and Toronto including “Family Fun Day” at Karters Korners, auctions, Beer Tasting events, trivia nights, Paint Night, fitness fundraisers, and local community events. Information about the monthly fundraising events are posted on Camp Aftermath’s social media platforms and website. In addition to fundraisers, they accept donations through the Camp Aftermath website, or the Canada Helps platform. As a registered Canadian charity, receipts are provided for qualified donations over CAD$25.

Camp Aftermath’s novel approach to the long-term management of PTSD has attracted the attention of mental health professionals and organizations in Canada, including ProjectBe, Boots on the Ground, and Movember.

Dr. John Whelan, a clinical psychologist with a career in the Canadian Armed Forces, sits on the Advisory Committee. He firmly believes in Camp Aftermath’s special ingredient of active philanthropy. “The idea of giving back and contributing to society is a wonderful way of re-establishing a connection to the community.”
Join Camp Aftermath and their supporters around the world by promoting healing through active philanthropy.
If you believe in this cause, consider donating on the Canada Helps web site.
For information on how to get involved, go to