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Hello & thank you for opening your winter Military Family Services Europe newsletter. In this edition, we explore thriving in our OUTCAN locations and what thriving means for those being posted home this year. In this edition:

  • Healthy Relationships
  • Niederheid Community Garden
  • Volunteering in our Community
  • Covid-19 Resources
  • UK Kids Top Thriving Tips for pandemic life
  • How to Make a Meaningful Virtual Connection
  • Advisory Committee Openings
  • A Letter from the Ombudsman
  • Everything I need to know to thrive this winter, I learned from watching kids
  • Prosper. Make the most of your time in Europe!
  • Tips and Tricks for Traveling in and from Riga, Latvia
  • Returning to the Canadian Workforce
  • The Last Six Miles

We hope you enjoy reading and invite you to reach out if you like to submit an article for our next edition at
Your MFS(E) Team
Healthy Relationships

The history of Valentine’s day is an interesting one. It can be traced back to the Pagan fertility festival known as Lupercalia, which included animal sacrifice, ritualized fornication, public flogging… and lots of wine. In the 5th Century, Pope Gelasius I outlawed Lupercalian festivities, Christianized the traditions in the name of Saint Valentine of Rome -- patron of courtly love and epilepsy. Some Lupercalian symbols subsisted, such as the figure of Cupid, the Roman god of desire and erotic love, as we can see adorning many Valentine’s day decorations. However, it isn’t until the 20th century that the holiday takes shape as we know it today, with its large-scale commercialization by a popular greeting card company. As we can see, Valentine’s day has different layers of signification but is largely celebrated today as a holiday to celebrate love, particularly romantic love. 
On this occasion, many couples reflect on the quality of their romantic relationships, and on what they can do to nurture greater connection and empathy within it. Read more
Niederheid Community Garden

March 10, 2020 - Volunteers met at MFS Niederheid, and a community garden seed that had taken root over many weeks, fragile and shaky, but persistent in a nagging sort of way, burst into the air with a gusto determined to see the light of day. Animated discussions, ideas, and brilliant visions transcended minds, wafting overhead like a comforting blanket, warming hearts. The meeting ended with bonhomie. 

Then, on March 13th an announcement of an indefinite lockdown usurped this amity with bewildering cold as Europe and our community grappled with a new and terrifying pandemic. Eight weeks of uncertainty, teetering on the edge of caution and recklessness, and finally realizing that life must be savoured in a real, back-to-basics kind of way, hope began to kindle. 

Volunteering in our Community

We asked a few of our volunteers why they volunteer and here is what they had to say.

"I love gardening it’s very peaceful and I’m in my happy place especially when I see the plants start to grow and you can see changes every day."
- Violet Sibley
"Volunteering for me is my way to fill my heart with joy. I have canvassed for many charities over the years such as Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke foundation and Poppy Campaign.I also volunteered at my children's school as a lunch monitor, reading groups and field trip monitor. Volunteering gives me a sense of belonging and it will always be a part of my life."
- Ann Marie Lynch

"I have always enjoyed volunteering because I feel that it gives me a feeling of belonging and purpose. In the past, I have volunteered for a number of organizations that have touched some part of my life or someone close to me. This is also true when volunteering with the community garden. Moving to Europe and living in Germany has been an interesting experience and one that has dropped me right in the middle of a military community. This community has become part of my family and spending time working on a project as big as the garden has been a wonderful shared experience. I love to spend as much time outdoors as I possibly can and this garden fits right into my lifestyle.
I find interests and hobbies I am passionate about, as involving myself gives me joy.  I feel a sense of belonging and joy connecting with others.  I love being in a gathering of persons with similar interests as it makes me happy."
Mary White

Covid-19 in Europe
Military Family Services (Europe) has two new resources for OUTCAN families in European communities dealing with school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These new resources are available to our families for more support during the distance learning period. 

COVID EDUCATION SUPPORT This COVID MFS(E) support is designed to assist CAF families who have children attending 100%
e-learning/distance program in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID RESPITE CHILDCARE SUPPORT This COVID MFS(E) support is designed to assist CAF families who have children attending 100%
e-learning/distance program in light of the coronavirus pandemic and who don't already have children in daycare. Learn more

Please know your MFS(E) team is here to support you. Do not hesitate to contact us or your local MFS(E) team.

If you feel the need for some emotional support during this time, please reach out to our MFS(E) Social Worker, Myriam Chebat, at or alternatively, the Family Information Line: 1-800-866-4546, (613)995-5234 or toll-free from Europe, 00800 7711 7722 or your local Padre.
How to Make a Meaningful Virtual Connection

Virtual communication is unavoidable at the moment. Most of our human contact is now coming at us through a screen. Although most of us are comfortable with going through the motions of turning on our devices and saying hello through a camera; Are we really getting what we need from our virtual interactions?
To help promote mental resiliency throughout 2021, learning how to maximize our meaningful virtual interactions is essential. What is a meaningful interaction you ask? It is one that offers mutual understanding, acceptance, and support. The following can help you optimize how you interact with people virtually, both on a personal and professional level, and to obtain what you need from a virtual conversation. Read more
Letter from the Ombudsman
It is easy to see the vital role the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) play in keeping Canada safe and secure. Families are a major source of support and strength to CAF personnel and integral to military success. They also face challenges and make sacrifices; it’s not just the member who enrols and serves.
Families act as a support system for members as they deal with the unique challenges of military life. My office is the only formal recourse mechanism for issues related to the Department of National Defence (DND) and CAF available to them -- a role we take seriously. We address military family concerns through a variety of means, including answering calls through our toll-free number and investigating complex issues. We can help get processes back on track and ensure family members are treated fairly by the DND and CAF. Read more
Regional Civilian Personnel Office (RCPO)

The OUTCAN employment environment is very diverse, and the Regional Civilian Personnel Office (RCPO) is always looking for talented and motivated people ready to take on new challenges. If you have questions or would like to discuss opportunities further, please feel free to contact our office at
For Global Affairs Canada local employment opportunities in Europe click here.
For NATO employment opportunities click here.
For Natex employment opportunities click here.
News from Our Communities
Everything I need to know to thrive this winter, I learned from watching kids

I remember the screening interview for our posting to Belgium. The social worker rifled off a bunch of questions about the challenges and potential issues with OUTCAN. I was confident, (and if I’m perfectly honest, maybe a bit cocky) and I tried to reassure her of all of the reasons that we were fully aware and fully prepared for this posting. I remember specifically her questions about the weather. I remember talking about our time in Comox and the fact that my husband is from the West coast. I remember thinking it was a non-issue.
Now, fast forward 2.5 years and here we are - smack dab in the middle of our third Belgian winter with all of its rainy glory, dark days, and lack of sunshine. And you know what? It is hard. She was right.
We are all feeling it in our house in some way, this year more than ever. I have to say that my son is managing the best and I’ve started to see why. He has some built-in skills that have made him able to thrive in this weather. Here is what I’ve learned from watching my five-year-old thrive this winter. Read more
Prosper. Make the most of your time in Europe!

There is literally a life BEFORE covid and of course one AFTER covid, where we'll be able to pick up our travel list from where we left it last March. But right now it's life DURING covid and the way we enjoy our time in Europe is quite different right now than BEFORE covid.

Our posting is coming to the end and our family is very sad that our last moments in Belgium must be like this, with all the travel and movement restrictions. However, we will not be shackled and prevented from making new discoveries! While staying in Belgium, we are enjoying our last moments while respecting the measures taken by the Government.

Tips and Tricks for Traveling in and from Riga, Latvia

Riga's Old Town area (Vecriga) is the most central part of the city and the most convenient part to go everywhere from. In this area, you will find many hotels and hostels, and it's a quick walk to the Central Train Station and the Central Bus Station. It's also a five-minute walk or less to tram or bus stops that can take you throughout the beautiful city. Pro-tip: tram routes are the fastest and even quicker than taking a Bolt (like Uber) or taxi, as they run on dedicated rails and are not affected by road traffic as much. 
A single journey on public transport is 1,15euro, however, you pay for each transport vehicle/transfer - for example, if you know your route requires two busses or a bus and a tram ride you will need two tickets. There is no such thing as an option to use the same ticket for multiple types of transport within a set time frame. Pro-tip: You can purchase "tap cards" pre-loaded with however many tickets you think you may need at the local Narvesen convenience stores, which works on all Riga transport trams, trolleys, and local busses. Read more
Returning to the Canadian Workforce

As APS approaches and many of us prepare to return to Canada – myself included – our thoughts are turning to career planning. Employment opportunities are scarce for spouses and family members in Europe. Many have been out of work for several years, and returning to work is not always easy.

Whether you’ve been out of the workforce for 12 months or five years, getting back into the hiring pool can be nerve-racking. Add to that how much the workplace has changed in the last 12 months, and it is easy to feel uncertain about your prospects and your value. However, the most important thing is that you remain confident in your abilities. Read more
The Last Six Miles

Everything comes to an end, and the best things end even faster. It’s never easy to come back from a long trip and get back into the routine. However, this reality is even more difficult when this extraordinary journey has lasted for years. As much as returning to our country, our province, or even our city, our neighbourhood can seem easy, natural; it is not so for everyone. This return to basics after a prolonged expatriation is what is known as reverse culture shock.

If the culture shock was at the end of our lips at the beginning of the adventure, when leaving Canada, it was surely softened by the excitement of this adventure, the desire to discover a new culture, to be tempted by the local gastronomy, and immerse ourselves in a new language or accent.
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