The War Amps was started in 1918 by amputee veterans returning from the First World War to help each other in adapting to their new reality as amputees. They then welcomed amputee veterans following the Second World War, sharing all that they had learned.
In 1946, the Key Tag Service was launched so that returning war amputees could not only work for competitive wages, but also provide a service to Canadians that would generate funds for the Association. Today, the Key Tag Service continues to employ amputees and persons with disabilities.
In the winter of 1985, Sima and her sister were just teenagers when they were walking from their village, in the former Yugoslavia, to visit their mom in the nearest town. They were underdressed for the harsh weather and got lost in a canyon.
After seven days without food or sleep, they were found by hunters and taken to the hospital. “My sister and I had frostbite and an infection in our lungs. In order to save our lives, doctors had to amputate both of our legs below the knee,” she said.
In 1990, Sima and her husband moved to his native Canada. “My husband was the one who told me about The War Amps Key Tag Service,” says Sima. “We knocked on their door and staff member Rob Larman, a leg amputee himself, welcomed us. Rob offered me a job on the spot and when he asked when I wanted to start, I said ‘tomorrow.’”
Sima began working in production, stuffing envelopes for mailing. Today, she is an assistant supervisor in the Remittance Processing Department, where she trains employees and oversees the donations that come in.
Returning keys and making a difference for amputees
The War Amps was founded on the philosophy of “amputees helping amputees” which continues today. “As many of my coworkers are amputees, we share a special bond,” says Sima. “We support each other and show each other that the sky is the limit. I have always loved the water but I didn’t think I could swim until another leg amputee at work told me that they were going scuba diving. Today, I take part in all sorts of activities like sailing, yoga, dancing and bowling.”
The War Amps receives no government grants and its programs are possible through public support of the Key Tag Service. Sima said it is rewarding to work for an organization that is helping amputees by providing financial assistance for the cost of artificial limbs, advocating for the rights of amputees and providing employment.
Rob Larman, who today is the Director of The War Amps PLAYSAFE/DRIVESAFE Program, says, “These war amputee veteran members created a legacy for amputees in this country through the Key Tag Service. The veterans went overseas during the Second World War, came back home missing limbs and decided to continue to provide a service for Canadians.”
Sima adds that the Key Tag Service has provided her with more than just employment. “I feel fortunate to have come to Canada, an incredible country where I found my purpose and second family at the Key Tag Service. My life has truly come full circle,” she says.
For more information, or to order key tags, visit waramps.ca or call toll-free 1 800 250-3030.