The Trading Team recently had the pleasure of joining a model-making session at the Wales and Hereford Community Recovery office in Treforest. Amongst the banter, tea and biscuits, the guys were constructing and painting intricate models. In this relaxed and supportive atmosphere, the modellers can make real strides in their recovery through this wonderful wellbeing activity - focusing on one specific, fiddly task.
The sessions are delivered by Models for Heroes, a not for profit organisation, Founded by Malcolm Childs in 2017. Malcolm learnt that the act of model-making can have many positive effects for veterans experiencing a variety of physical and mental health challenges including PTSD, anxiety and depression.
Malcolm was invited to run a model-making session as part of the Rolling Recovery Programme at Tedworth House in Tidworth. Malcolm says,’’ I have been making models since childhood. It’s a creative process, constructive, and keeps my fingers moving! It also deals with military aviation which I have an interest in’’.
‘’I feel proud it’s making a big difference. I’m surprised it’s never been done before. The real magic is in the volunteers that give up their time and understand the importance of giving something back, and it means a lot to them. I’m very proud of all of them’’.
Malcolm says, ‘’The act of following instructions and relaxing quietly can produce a meditative state. It encourages focus, patience and coping mechanisms and delicate motor skills’’.
Since being founded, Models for Heroes has helped approximately 400 veterans a month.
Read more on how Model for Heroes has helped this group of veterans.
Veteran John William, served as a Lance Corporal with The Royal Regiment of Wales between 1981 and 1986, before being medically discharged. John became involved with Help for Heroes after a visit from a Community Keyworker who helped John to get more involved with Help for Heroes.
John Says, ‘’Help for Heroes provides a fantastic service for serving personnel and veterans. They are there when in times of crisis and always go the extra mile to provide support for the wounded, injured and sick’’.
‘’I’m so pleased that I had the opportunity to attend further modelling sessions and it is something I look forward to each month. The session is totally relaxed and gives me the opportunity to meet other Veterans who also attend. So, it’s perfect for a chat, laugh and banter and the obligatory brew’’.
Veteran Martin Gane felt a lack of support after being medically discharged and his mental health plummeted. Since becoming involved with Help for Heroes, Martin feels like he has a purpose once more, allowing him to interact with other like-minded veterans.
“Going through Help for Heroes, it’s almost being reunited with brothers and sisters, no you’re not related in any way but I could go into a room with a complete stranger who’s a veteran and we could be talking and having a laugh as if we’d know each other for 30 years, and that’s the beauty of it”.
Martin first started model making after attending a monthly group in the Wales office. Enjoying the company and the banter, Martin has been attending the groups regularly. “It gives me something to look forward to each month, whereas before I’d be stuck in the house. It concentrates my mind on doing the modelling, rather than on the other stuff that I want to forget”.
Welsh Models for Heroes volunteer Haydn Nelms has been involved with Help for Heroes since 2018. He says what he enjoys most about model making is, ‘’meeting the guys, the banter, the sense of wellbeing by helping others’’.
‘’Some of these guys have been through unimaginable things and to get them to feel the pride in something that they’ve built – gives you such an enormous sense of wellbeing that you drive away with a smile on your face and thinking I made a difference – I helped – I made a difference and it’s worth making the difference to these people’’.
‘’In an ideal world there would be no need for Help for Heroes, but our world desperately needs Help for Heroes, so give it all you can to make the world a better place for those who served to make yours a better world’’.
Tony Blackwell, 61, was born and bred in his home-town of Cardiff and has been a volunteer for 2 years with Models for Heroes, attending the regular model making groups at the Wales office. He says, ’’As a volunteer, I frequently observe that beneficiaries, while focusing on model kits, will openly banter about their problems and the help/support they get, or do not get after leaving the services. Concentrating on something fiddly is often very therapeutic as it focuses the mind and the body to achieve something they can be proud of. I've witnessed some severely injured veterans who show a real determination to overcome their challenges to allow them to complete a task’’.
Tony says the support veterans receive is invaluable, ‘’In an ideal world, there should be no need for charities. We don't live in that ideal world and veterans often seem to be discharged not being ready for civilian life. They don't know who can help them and what they are entitled to. Help for Heroes provides that support and I know the veterans I've talked to find the help invaluable’’.
Ex-Signalman Andy MacDonald-Rice from Carmarthen is a Veteran and volunteer who joined the Band of Brothers Fellowship in 2018. During his 5 years of service from 1986-1991 he was based in both the UK and Germany. Andy suffered damage to his left leg, which led to being medically discharged, he says,’’ Back when I came out, I was given one piece of paper, a date for an interview with the disablement office in the job centre. I did not know anything about claiming for a pension, help with housing, paying monthly bills, Motability, help with both mental and physical health. Happily, things have changed since then, and Help for Heroes are a big part of helping with the transition to civilian life for those discharged now’’.
Andy enjoys the company of his fellow Modellers, he says,’’ The company and banter first off, followed by the therapeutic benefits of model making’’.
Andy is a proud volunteer and knows the difference that volunteering can make. He says, ‘’Help for Heroes can only do so much, and it is through the volunteers that help with sessions and fundraising that the charity can continue to help veterans. I would say a big thank you to all those that support Help for Heroes in one form or another’’.
Welsh born Martin Jones served with The 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Wales Between 1979-2001, touring in Germany, Ireland, Warminster and Hong Kong. It was after suffering chronic back pain after two operations that Martin was medically discharged.
Martin has been involved with Help for Heroes since October 2019. He says, "My discharge was a very negative experience for myself and my family. I was given no help or assistance with or after my discharge, I felt abandoned after years of service. It wasn’t until I was receiving counselling with CHIP’s through my GP that I found out about Help for Heroes Community Recovery team. I have now been given some of the support I should have had 20 years ago with finances and my mental health’’.
Martin enjoys coming to the modelling days, he says, "It gets me away from home and I really enjoy the banter with other veterans and staff at Help for Heroes. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and great at helping and providing different sorts of models’’.
After a career in the Army followed by 22 years in the Police John Geden was diagnosed with PTSD from his traumatic experiences in both services. He took early retirement as a result and turned to his passion for bee-keeping as a calming coping mechanism.
“I needed to do something that would give me a sense of worth and achievement, but that did not put me under too much pressure by placing huge demands on me.”
He then went on to establish a business around his new passion - developing a balm with healing properties derived from propolis which comes from the bee-hives. In 2018 John joined forces with Aromatherapist Debbie Mulkern of New Forest Aromatics to produce WiSP balm. It has proved beneficial to many veterans wearing prosthetic limbs alleviating soreness. Not just for veterans the balm is also widely used by runners, climbers and cyclists, helping to protect from skin dryness, chaffing, blistering and cracked skin.
Veteran and Band of Brother, Andrea Bartlett has joined us once more in creating another wonderful range of products. Andrea worked with us for our autumn/winter range last year, her beautiful artwork was transformed into bestselling designs featuring on both a Christmas t-shirt and a set of tea towels.
This year, we approached Andrea once more with a concept in mind and Andrea ran with it!
After months of hard work and Andrea's creative flair, we have the pleasure of introducing the new Motivational range. This fun set of t-shirts features well known motivational quotes, inspiring you to keep pushing forward!
We caught up with Andrea to find out what her inspiration was behind the brilliant illustrations and her thoughts on the new collection.
What was it like working on the artwork?
I love a new challenge, so I was incredibly excited and honoured to be asked by Help for Heroes, to design the motivational t-shirts.
Due to being a wildlife artist, I thought I'd start off sketching, what I knew best; animals! I decided to use endangered species, because I think they pretty much best represent a military veteran. There's far too many of us losing their lives needlessly every day. So, this project is definitely something I felt passionately about. The slogans really inspired me, knowing that they were thought of by service personnel, in the recovery centres. I'm hoping the motivational t-shirts will put a smile on your face and remind you all to keep going.
What was it like working on a new project for the Trading shop team?
I loved working with the Trading shop team. They were all so supportive and made me feel part of their team, despite being so far away. They're the best advocates for Help for Heroes and really care about what they do and who they're doing it for.
Which is your favourite design?
Surprisingly to me, I think my favourite design is the 'if it ain't raining..' design. I love how 3 seperate designs have been combined to make the final one. It's very effective and the Help for Heroes design team have done an amazing job on it.
I think you should buy these new t-shirt designs, because they're fun, quirky and will make you smile. They represent the whole military community, and hopefully, they'll be a reminder to some of you, of your past military service and help you to remember to keep pushing forward. You've got this!
To see more of Andrea's brilliant creations, make sure to check her Instagram - @bartandeddiedesign
Help for Heroes Patron, Ross Kemp is a passionate supporter and regular visitor to many parts of the Charity, including Tedworth House Recovery centre, where he spends time talking to veterans and their families about their recovery journeys. He’s also a familiar visitor to volunteers based at the Tin Hut, where he enjoys taking time out to chat to many volunteers about what they do and why they enjoy volunteering for Help for Heroes.
At the Tin Hut, he met with a regular volunteer and Band of Sister, Lesley McNab. Lesley has been volunteering for Help for Heroes for 3 years, enjoying the friendships she's made with other volunteers, staff and beneficiaries. She said, '' I enjoy the friendship of other volunteers and staff, and I love it when the beneficiaries come down from Tedworth House for a chat. I hope in some small way I’m giving something back to those who have given so much’’.
Her advice, ’’To anyone thinking of volunteering, do it! It’s a wonderful place, everyone is here because they want to be. It’s also great to go out bucket collecting and meeting the public and having a chat about what Help for Heroes can do".
Ross posing for a photo with volunteers Lesley and Steve.
Then Ross kindly took the time to help out us in the Trading team by having some pictures taken in our latest collection of t-shirts and hoodies. We think he makes a pretty good model! Take a look!