COVID-19 Relief for Emergency Service Veterans.

by FirstLight Trust
COVID-19 Relief for Emergency Service Veterans.

Small actions can be incredibly powerful in relieving stress, anxiety and other mental health issues. When the pandemic hit many of our activities were put on hold, but walking continued to be an effective for many veterans supported by FirstLight Trust, often improving their mental and physical wellbeing.

On a spring afternoon FirstLight Trust support worker SF and veteran FW met for a walk along a beautiful woodland area. FW thought he had never been to the area at first but quickly realised that he used to walk his late son’s dog when caring for him. They passed along a creek and other walkers whilst the sun was shining above them.

FW spoke about his new role as a volunteer at a bereavement group and told SF that he has been asked to run a veteran’s ‘Coffee and Chat’ group which he is happy to do and is enjoying the new venture.

SF and FW stopped for a break at a bench where FW talked about his time in Africa with the Royal Engineers during the Ebola crisis.

Getting out in the fresh air was something FW used to do frequently with his son; going for walks with SF gives him the space to open up about his grief and enables SF to support him effectively.

FW and SF walked back along the creek and woodland. At the end of the route FW thanked SF by saying, “The walk always clears my head”.

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Veterans enjoying being back in the Hub
Veterans enjoying being back in the Hub

Homelessness is still a prolific issue in the UK; as the nights draw in and days become colder there is a heightened risk for those sleeping rough. From their six localities in Lancaster, Hereford, Gosport, Scarborough, Redcar and Hawick and beyond, veterans’ charity FirstLight Trust helps to prevent homelessness throughout the country.

Understanding the root causes of homelessness can help to prevent it, and ease the pressure on statutory services. Dorinda Wolfe Murray, CEO of FirstLight Trust has an important message to share, “homelessness is never about having a roof over your head; it is to do with everything else. Think about it – it is the what, the how, the why. Sofa surfing, camping, living in woods, sleeping rough - as that is all you can manage. All of these issues have causes that are rooted in hopelessness, anxiety, depression, addictions, physical and mental inabilities to deal with what life throws our way. It takes time, understanding and most of all compassion to look at and support a person into having a home and a significant amount of common sense. It needs to be the right kind of support and the right king of accommodation – one size does not fit all and never has done. And why are we so successful? Because we take the time to listen, understand and then support. It can take 2 or more years of ongoing support to help those who have been homeless to feel safe and secure in a home. Perhaps we should call it homing rather than housing.”

Like most UK organisations, FirstLight Trust was forced to temporarily close their Café Hub doors when Covid first hit in 2020. The Hubs are a physical touch point for veterans of the Armed Forces and Emergency services and their families; a welcoming and safe space accessible from the high street where support, activities, and enjoying a coffee and chat takes a step from a pavement through an open door. Though virtual and one-to-one support has been available since the pandemic started, the Café Hubs have always been at the heart of the work we do; combating isolation and loneliness as well as supporting mental wellbeing and preventing homelessness. And the home of much banter, laughter and conversation.

Join us in one of our Cafe Hubs on Wednesday 15th December 2021 for our annual baking event to celebrate the opening of all FirstLight Trust’s Café Hubs and their very vital place in their communities. The event will also be raising donations to prevent homelessness and relieve pressure on the Emergency Services. Follow FirstLight Trust on social media for more fun-filled initiatives to get us all through the dark and gloomy winter months.

Coming together to support those in need within our communities is incredibly worthwhile and perhaps the greatest gift we can give to ourselves and others this Christmas.

Rachel, our Bake Off winner in 2019!
Rachel, our Bake Off winner in 2019!

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The recent downfall of rain throughout the UK has meant less visits to the allotments but more weeding!

This does not get the veterans down; The rain has had a significant impact on the growth of many vegetables and plants within the FirstLight allotment plots, including carrots, marrow, potatoes and tomatoes (amongst others) - the veterans are so thrilled to see the amazing products of their hard work.

Nature calms the mind, reduces anxiety and improves confidence and self-esteem; all of which we have seen amongst the veterans we support. This continued support has been an anchor for the veterans throughout a very difficult period of time.

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FirstLight Trust’s Stress Down Day took place a few weeks ago on Friday 26th March before the clocks went back; The campaign takes place bi-annually on the Fridays before the clocks go forward and back, to frame the winter months within which mental health issues seem to increase. The first Stress Down Day of the year was a huge hit and raised vital funds to help support emergency service veterans. After the year we’ve had, Stress Down Day reminded us how important it is to take breaks, de-stress and make time to relax. It promotes simple effective movements, such as stretching and breathing, to prevent stress and improve mental health when done regularly.

The event itself showcased a range of activities from a calming yoga session to beautifully acoustic live music, bringing people together virtually to take a break from daily stresses. Mental health has suffered as a result of this pandemic, and it is more essential than ever that we take care of ourselves and pay attention to our mental health and overall wellbeing.

The next Stress Down Day will be taking place on Friday 29th October, the Friday before the clocks go forward. Please follow our social media for updates:

Instagram: @stressdownday @firstlight_trust

Facebook & Twitter: @firstlighttrust

Continued Support for Veterans of the Emergency Services and Armed Forces.

Social isolation and loneliness have contributed to a rise in mental health issues over the last year, particularly within the veteran community. FirstLight Trust as a charity has remained a base for veterans throughout this difficult year and provided more support than ever before. It will continue to do so as the Café Hubs begin to open over the coming months in line with government regulations.

FirstLight Trust currently has Café Hubs in Hereford, Gosport, Lancaster, Scarborough and Hawick, with a successful outreach programme in Redcar. They provide easy access to a friendly space, whether you’re a veteran in need of support or someone from the local area looking for a decent cup of coffee, FirstLight Trust’s Café Hubs are inclusive spaces that connect you to the community.

Like many other charities, we have lost income due to the pandemic and will need help funding to re-open. These spaces offer so much to local veterans and the community - if you would like to help FirstLight to re-open please consider donating to our project page on GlobalGiving or via the link below. Thank you so much.

FirstLight Trust Cafe Hubs - Sharpe's
FirstLight Trust Cafe Hubs - Sharpe's

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Exercise, fresh air and social interaction has become even more important for veterans after many have been self-isolating due to Covid-19. Here is a case study about the impact the Cycle Group has had for several FirstLight veterans in Gosport during this difficult time.

Cycle Group

The FirstLight Trust team in Gosport works with Cycle UK to ensure the correct measures are in place to keep everyone safe whilst out on their rides. Veterans PG, PM, MA and NF took part in the first socially distanced bike ride, which continues each week.

On one of the first rides, FirstLight Trust colleague, RB, could see something was wrong with NF so she pulled him aside to ask if he was okay. NF was stressed and anxious about moving house, so RB invited him to join the ride in his electric wheel chair which he eventually accepted. NF interacted with the group and he thanked RB for inviting him stating, “that was just what I needed”. RB reminded NF that moving house is stressful for anyone and encouraged him to continue with his breathing exercises and to reach out if he needs help.

MA brought his own helmet and was keen to get started. He said he had been waiting for months to get together and was ready for a good ride. The group took in the landscape as they rode and chatted when they stopped for a break.

On the second week, veterans JW and MR joined. JW had a bad knee so the group took a slightly slower ride this week. JW shared that his daughter had passed away quite suddenly last month and he explained this was the first time he had been out properly. He stated that it was “just what the doctor ordered”. JW spoke to FirstLight Trust’s RB about how he is coping, and was thankful for a listening ear. The rest of the group took the time to speak to JW and make him laugh. JW decided that he wanted to become a regular member of the Cycle Club. The veterans requested longer bike rides in the future as they are starting to feel physically fitter.

The group has continued to grow and has split into two with those less confident being led by FirstLight’s colleague, SF. Gosport’s mascot Hope the Bear joins the veterans on most rides, providing a good laugh to all. On the fifth week, the more advanced group were picking up speed and with the weather improving the veterans enjoyed the ride even more. JW opened up about his daughter stating that she loved the grounds they had cycled to that day. He says that even though he misses her every day, he is learning to get on with life without her and is thankful to FirstLight Trust for all the support.

On week six, NF had a low mood and told RB that he would not be attending Cycle Club this week, however he showed up anyway. He was quiet on the ride stating that he was having a bad couple of days. He had been turned down for a walk-in shower from the GP and occupational therapist. NF received a text message telling them his application had been rejected. However, when RB asked to see the text message she was able to tell him that he had been asked to contact the number they sent through for a self-referral. NF had read the text wrong, and thanked RB for the help. PG ad PM thoroughly enjoyed the ride this week. PM stated that it’s great for his mental health and if he had never found FirstLight Trust then “god knows where I would be now”.

The Cycle Group was joined by a representative from Cycle UK on one of their rides. They cycled along the beach front and over to a beautiful garden where they stopped for a break. The group enjoyed talking to S from Cycle UK, they spoke about their time in the forces and how the Cycle Group has helped them.

The Cycle Group has become a place where veterans can come to get some exercise out in the fresh air and where they can socialise and seek support from FirstLight colleagues. This has become increasingly important given that lockdown has left many veterans feeling lonely and isolated.

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Organization Information

FirstLight Trust

Location: London - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @FirstLightTrust
Project Leader:
Rose Bradbury
London, United Kingdom
$3,544 raised of $6,229 goal
 
134 donations
$2,685 to go
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