Veterans and young people are benefitting from a new initiative that is keeping one of Europe’s largest outdoor activity centres in tip top condition.

Veterans and young people are benefitting from a new initiative that is keeping one of Europe’s largest outdoor activity centres in tip top condition.

The Veterans Community Working Party (VCWP) has been awarded £19,440 from the National Lottery Community Fund to support and develop additional employability, self-care and creative skills in Veterans.

The VCWP does this by running outdoor based activities for Veterans that include weekend maintenance work parties for the charity, the YMCA at Lakeside.

The work parties help the YMCA look after its 70 year old residential centre on a 100 acre site on the western shore of Windermere. Around 10,000 children and young people a year visit and benefit from a ‘world-class’ experience that makes the most of the area’s outstanding natural resources.

As VCWP project manager Nicole Blair explained:

“Over three days, once a month, a group of up to 18 Veterans come from across the UK to stay at YMCA Lakeside. They use their skills and time to rejuvenate outdoor classrooms, activity areas and buildings. At our launch event, with special guest Samantha Scott, the High Sheriff of Cumbria, the task was to paint and decorate staff accommodation ready for the new season. Work parties have also been clearing damage caused by storms and December’s heavy snowfall.

“In exchange, YCMA Lakeside provides accommodation and some time and space in which Veterans can gather to peer mentor, learn new skills, take time out and focus on their own wellbeing. VCWP  provide supervision, training, project management, and governance to ensure projects run well,” added Nicole.

The impact on the Veterans is huge. Veteran, VCWP Director and Mentor Barry Seymour said: “VCWP is important to me because it helps others like me. I have PTSD, complex trauma and I’ve had two strokes. By being a mentor, I can give back to those struggling to cope after service life. It is a community where families can be involved which is really important to me too.”

For Veteran Glyn Poolford: “The Working Party (WP) is my opportunity to mix with like-minded people and it is something I look forward to each month. Without the WP I know my mental health would re-enter a downward spiral, plus it’s the only opportunity to get out of my flat.”

 

For another Veteran, Ruth Walsh: “VCWP helped me when my head had completely fallen off and I was diagnosed with complex PTSD.  The working party enables me to give something back, work alongside like-minded people, each with our own different skills and attributes. I’ve met loads of new friends and completed some great work. It gives us a sense of achievement, self-worth and keeps me sane. I learned to laugh again and where else could be better than the Lakes – and being with great people.”

 

Veteran Steven Hargreaves said: “As someone who has struggled since discharge from the military with mental and physical health issues, VCWP allows me an escape from it. I have no friends, struggle with social interaction and feel discarded and abandoned by an organisation I gave my life to. Those who should care or help don’t. VCWP fills that void, everyone is welcome, irrespective of background or history. We have become friends without whom I would be lost.”

 

With Veteran Christine Hawksworth adding: “VCWP allows me the time to reset my head amongst a group of men and women who also enjoy the act of volunteering without a need to explain my quirks.”

 

Godfrey Owen, Centre Director for YMCA Lakeside added: “Our partnership with VCWP is making a significant contribution to the site. The Working Party’s visits each month have meant many positive improvements to the site and the Veterans are quickly becoming members of our community”.

 

The Official  Launch was Saturday 13th January at 0900hrs at YMCA Lakeside, with special guest Samantha Scott The High Sheriff of Cumbria.

VCWP will be looking for more opportunities to run similar projects in the future. For more information contact Nicole Blair via: info@vcworkingparty.org


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