Going the extra mile for veterans
This Remembrance Day, we turn the spotlight on a group that has gone the extra mile when it comes to supporting veterans and their families through the pandemic.
When lockdown began, 97-year-old veteran Fred* was distraught.
He thought he would die without ever seeing his family again. But help was at hand from the team at Finchale Training College, who supplied Fred with a tablet, and showed him how to use it to keep in touch with his loved ones.
Jacqui Nicholson, from Finchale Training College, explained: “Now he speaks to his family, who live down south, three times a day. He can see them all at once and it’s made a big difference to him. He was distraught, and really down, but now he is able to face the second lockdown knowing he aced the first one. Fred hasn’t done a single training course with us, and probably never will, but this shows the reach of what we do. It’s not just about getting people signed up for training.”
Creative and connected
Each year, the College helps hundreds of veterans and civilians to become part of a community. And the lockdown was no exception. The team flexed to meet need, setting up online courses in creative writing, cookery, model making and floristry to help families stay creative and connected.
An emergency grant of £4,991 from County Durham Community Foundation helped the team to buy Chromebooks and tablets for their clients with no access a computer or internet; and many other funders also stepped in to support the project. Through the Foundation’s funding on their virtual learning platform, 53 people enrolled to take an online course, 48 people took part in online cooking, 19 people tried their hand at floristry and 10 people took part in an online model club.
And the support went way beyond numbers. Volunteers and staff called in on vulnerable clients to drop off the relevant equipment and sometimes spotted a bigger problem. Due to an issue with benefits, one client had no food to feed his family so the team rallied to provide an emergency delivery of food and arranged a voucher for the food bank.
“A hand up, not a hand-out”
Jacqui added: “Our team already had a heavy caseload, but this year they’ve worked with 300 extra people and they’ve been wonderful. Many of the team are veterans and they have just gone above and beyond. Our work is tailored to veterans and the forces community but at the end of the day we are all human beings, so we’re glad to be expanding our services now that the funding is available again.
“People assume that all veterans are mad, sad or bad but every year 14,000 people leave the forces and the majority do not face issues like homelessness. It’s important to recognise that even though they have bought a nice house with the money they saved, found a great job and arranged a school for their children, that doesn’t mean they’re not missing their team. Our job is to bring people together so they can make new connections with other veterans and with families who’ve never been on the forces.
“It’s all about a hand up, not a hand-out. We don’t want people to feel beholden to us because they’re not. We are only doing what you’d do for a friend or a neighbour.”
Find out more about Finchale Training College at https://www.finchalegroup.co.uk/
*names have been changed.