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Aug 18, 2020

Tackling Isolation and Loneliness

The effects of lockdown and self-isolation left many veterans feeling stuck, lonely and isolated. When UK government guidelines permitted groups of six to meet, FirstLight Trust put measures in place to start activities and provide veterans with the social connection and emotional support they greatly needed.

One of the activities is the allotment project in Gosport, where veterans meet once a week to grow fruit and vegetables and carry out other tasks required to keep the allotment tidy and in order. All FirstLight Trust activities follow social distancing guidelines set out by the UK government and safety is our number one priority.

The first case study here was written when the activity started as lockdown restrictions began to lift, and the second case study was written six weeks later. The allotment project has provided veterans with a safe place to socialise with other veterans whilst putting positive energy into something they are proud of and can see the benefits. The project is having an incredible impact on their mindset and sense of wellbeing.

 

Case Study 1

Veterans MA, PG and NF started the allotment project with FirstLight Trust’s (FLT) Hub Coordinator, RB.

MA arrived early and was very eager to get started, as he had waited months to attend this activity. MA already attends Shore Leave Haslar and has taken care of allotment plots before. MA stated to RB that, “today was magic, to be able to be myself and relax into something I love, thank you”. RB told MA that she was glad he feels that way. MA got talking to another veteran, PG and they worked very well together giving each other hints and tips for allotments.

PG is new to the allotment life but jumped straight in listening and discussing how the allotment would move forward. PG stated that he is a very hands-on person. PG de-weeded the two beds with MA without taking over which PG states he tends to do. Both PG and MA started to build a friendship which was great to see.

NF wasn’t sure how he was going to move around the allotment in his wheelchair. RB knew he was concerned and so she showed NF a map she had drawn up for him on how they would make it completely wheelchair accessible for him. NF and RB measured and went around the whole allotment plot putting plans together that would work for him and any other person using a wheelchair. NF stated while walking through the plans that it put his mind at ease and thanked RB for all the help. RB could see his mood lift and there were plenty of smiles from then on. NF opened up about moving home and being worried about packing as the move had come around very quickly and he had no boxes for moving. RB told NF that she would organise boxes for him and they will arrive this weekend. NF stated to RB that he had many things to think about but being at the allotment has really helped in many ways.

Everybody got on very well, PG and MA even suggested that they could help NF move if he wanted. NF was delighted to have people that could help.

Three beds were de-weeded in total and tomatoes and butternut squash seeds were planted. It was a very physical work out which contributed to the veterans’ positive mental well-being. The allotment project gives veterans the opportunity to be out in the sunshine and fresh air with a small group of people, which has not happened for months due to Covid-19.

All three veterans want to attend weekly.

 

Case Study - 28 July 2020

FirstLight Trust’s (FLT) Hub Coordinator, RB, met veterans PG, PM, TP and NF at the allotment.

This week they talked about their plans for next week as RB is on annual leave. SF, FLT Support Coordinator, will run the next two weeks.

PG PM will empty out the big compost boxes and finish fixing them. NF will be sowing the seeds in the shed ready for October planting. TP is sanding down and re-painting the bench that was donated to the allotment. It is being made it into a memorial bench for a veteran who sadly passed away last year – it will sit within a thinking corner with poppies planted around it.

RB did not have to lead any discussions apart from the plans for the coming weeks.

The veterans are all totally comfortable with talking and trusting each other now. It was great to see PM talking to NF about his appointments with TILS and how they are going. They shared past experiences with TP, helped PM come to terms with what he fears could happen but won’t due to his PTSD.

The session was great today. De-weeding was done and the shed was given a second coat of paint. However, the session was more about opening up to others, feeling safe in the environment the veterans had created, and being there without being judged, just supported.

Jul 8, 2020

Updates Following Covid-19 and Lockdown.

Scarborough Allotment
Scarborough Allotment

Covid-19 has impacted the lives of people all over the world. In March, lockdown started in the UK which left many of the veterans we support extremely vulnerable. Our local café hubs provide a safe and welcoming space for veterans to receive support, be that therapy, joining an activity or simply enjoying a friendly chat with a decent cup of coffee. Due to Covid-19 our hubs have been forced to temporarily close, leaving many veterans with no direct touchpoint, and putting their wellbeing and mental health at risk. FirstLight Trust has adapted its practices to continue to provide support within up to date government guidelines.

Case Study on Homelessness - June 2020:

FirstLight Trust’s Support Coordinator, Sally, received a phone call from North Yorkshire Police to advise that a veteran, RS, was on a bridge in Scarborough threatening to end his life. RS has issues with alcohol, and he was also struggling in his long-term relationship with his partner who he is now separated from.

Over the course of a weekend, RS and his partner had consumed large amounts of alcohol which resulted in arguments and caused a breakdown in their relationship. RS had recently given up his flat and moved in with his partner but following the end of their relationship he was asked to leave.

RS’s mental health worsened when he became street homeless and was consuming large amounts of alcohol. Sally worked with the police to talk RS around and then began working with him directly. Sally spent time to talking to RS, getting him something to eat and drink. She then started working with the housing options team at Scarborough Borough Council to find RS accommodation.

Sally was able to contact a local bed and breakfast in Scarborough willing to house RS on an ongoing basis insuring that RS was secure until a long-term plan could be worked out. Sally also managed to source a food parcel and other essential items for RS.

Sally is working with the housing options team to bid on properties for RS to move into long term. RS has also returned to work full-time and continues to engage with FirstLight Trust.

RS has not returned to his ex-partner and is working with the local police to take back his beloved dog when he has his own accommodation.

 

Our support colleagues continually provide excellent support to veterans virtually and over the phone. We have also been making wellbeing calls to those in our system to check whether they are in need of support or assistance. In May and June, two hundred and fifty wellbeing calls were made to veterans and their families.

Following recent changes to guidelines issued by the UK government some of our activities are back up and running. Attached to this report are pictures from the Cycle Club and Scarborough Allotment.

Gosport Cycle Club
Gosport Cycle Club

Links:

Mar 13, 2020

Marching Into Success

Star Baker Sian
Star Baker Sian

March is a big campaign month for FirstLight Trust, starting with our popular bi-annual Bake Off with a twist! In celebration of National Pie Week, our hub colleagues got to work to make a variety of delicious pies, from sweet to savoury. Congratulations to Sian, our Hub Leader in Hereford, who was voted Star Baker! The hubs raised a fantastic £238 in donations across the board which will go towards supporting veterans of the armed forces and emergency services.

International Women’s Day

Unified celebrations took place across our hubs last week for International Women’s Day. The theme was afternoon tea and the day was about women supporting women; female veterans sharing stories about their time serving. The day was filled with laughter, fun and cake!

Thank you so much to our incredible hub colleagues for organising such a fantastic day, and to our lovely veterans who made the day so special.

COMING UP…

The littlexlittle campaign

Please support us in GlobalGiving’s upcoming campaign! If you donate any amount up to $50 between the dates of Monday 23rd and Friday 27th March, GlobalGiving will match it by 50% helping us to make a small donation go a long way. 

Stress Down Day

Join us on Friday 27th March in one of our café hubs in Gosport, Lancaster, Hawick, Hereford, Redcar or Scarborough. We will be running short Stretch for Stress Down exercise sessions as well as promotional deals and the sale of SDD merchandise throughout the day.

Stress Down Day began in 2017 with the introduction of the simple but effective ‘stretch and yawn’. The campaign takes place twice a year, on each Friday before the clocks go forward and back. The time between October and March are the darkest of the year and for many who work with vulnerable people experiencing mental health issues such as PTSD, depression and anxiety, it is known as suicide season. Extra care and support should be available to people during this time, and Stress Down Day is a reminder that small acts can make a big difference to our health and wellbeing.

We're looking forward to welcoming you into the hubs! Thank you, as always, for your continual support.

International Women's Day
International Women's Day
International Women's Day
International Women's Day
International Women's Day
International Women's Day
Stress Down Day: 27th March
Stress Down Day: 27th March

Links:

 
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