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New branch of learning for wounded heroes

Wounded, injured and sick servicemen spent a week in the great outdoors on a green woodland course as part of their recovery.

Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Tedworth House, ran a week-long green woodwork course which saw wounded heroes learn how to make a shaving horse and wooden stool from materials found in the on-site woodland.

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Outdoor education is becoming a firm favourite as part of the recovery at Tedworth House, in Tidworth, and allows the wounded, injured and sick to spend time outdoors, developing their personal, social and technical skills. The course, run by Oliver Weight, was also an inspirational way to facilitate confidence building in those with physical and psychological injuries, in a woodland environment.

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Veteran Josh Campbell took part in the course and said it was an “amazing experience.” Private Josh Campbell was coming to the end of his 6 month tour in Afghanistan September 2009 where he was serving with 23 Pioneer Regiment, RLC. Whilst on a routine vehicle resupply in the Babaji district of central Helmand, Josh’s vehicle drove over an IED. The explosion caused the vehicle to roll on its side and Josh lost both of his legs.

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“The course provided an escape for me and all of the others who took part,” he said. “When you are that focused on something, trying something completely new, you forget about everything else and just really concentrate.

“The course had a clear objective, to make a shaving horse and then use that to make a stool, which gave us all a real sense of purpose. All of the materials we used were ones we collected ourselves from the woods, it really added to the ownership of what we were making.

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“There is something really therapeutic about woodwork and especially spending time in the outdoors .The course reinforced to me that no matter how badly injured you are, you should always try something new and you can always develop new skills which can last a lifetime.”

Mr Weight said the course at Tedworth House was the most enjoyable he has ever run.

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“The men who took part were really inspirational,” he said. “They are all so used to working as a team so the camaraderie was exceptional. No matter what their injury, they all got really stuck in and the results of what they produced at the end of the course were incredible.”

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Giles Woodhouse, Centre Manager at Tedworth House, said: “Josh has superbly encapsulated the many benefits of this type of outdoor activity in assisting the recovery of our wounded, injured and sick heroes. We are so fortunate to have the wonderful woodland facility on site and I am pleased to see how well it is being utilised for vital recovery activities."

 

 

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Betws-y-coed Trail Challenge no.2 proves another big hit

The 2nd annual Betws-y-Coed Trail Challenge took place in the woodlands around Llŷn Elsi on Saturday. In the space of just a couple of years, the race has proved hugely successful. The field has doubled in its second year and the race is now accredited and marketed as an official Help for Heroes event.

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Some of Britain’s finest Trail runners took part with England’s Carl Hardman taking first place with a time of 35 minutes and 34 seconds followed by team mates Tom Merson (36:25) and Gary Priestly (36:48).

England dominated in the women’s field too with a win for Kendal’s Sarah Tunstall in 40 minutes and 25 seconds followed by Al Lavender (41:17) and Emma Macready (42:19).

The newly introduced 5K race was well supported with some great young talent sweeping the board. The men’s race saw a convincing with from Eryri’s John Spill in 22:17 more than a minute clear of Brecon’s Luke Davies (23:18) with another local runner, Cai Linton of Menai taking third place in 23:31.

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The ladies field was also largely dominated by young talent with Heidi Davies storming in in 24:49, a truly impressive run for the Brecon athlete who finished fourth overall!  She was followed by Jazmine Maddocks of Cannock and Stafford AC (30:49) and Nicola Davies of Thornbury (31:48), a great run as she was also first veteran runner.

A further addition this year was the Canicross race where runners and dogs run together attached by a harness. Participants came from across the UK to take part with first places going to James Slack of Canicross Anglesey (42:58) and Louise Mitchell, Cani Sports Edinburgh (48:48).

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The race has had a huge amount of support from local businesses who realise the value that such events can have to the local economy. Magnox supported the race for a second time, this year sponsoring a new prize for the first runners to the top of the hill – Brenin/Brenhiness y Bryn. Speaking after the official presentation, Trawsfynydd Site Transition Manager Chris Skaratt said “Magnox is committed to being a good neighbour in the communities in which it operates. It was great to see such a fantastic turn out of trail blazers here today in such an awesome setting. Well done to all who took part.”

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Bryn and Emma Parry, Co-Founders of Help for Heroes sent this message of support: “We were privileged to be invited back to the heart of north Wales for the second year of the Betws-y-Coed 10K Trail run.  It takes in stunning scenery, epic climbs and breathtakingly amazing views and is becoming a favourite amongst Help for Heroes runners. H4H is all about ‘doing your bit’ and this event is a wonderful example of people, like Jon, Alison and Jayne, having a good idea, rallying support and being truly passionate while they raise money for a wonderful cause. We’d like to thank them and all the runners for their support".

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Race Coordinator Jayne Lloyd was delighted with how the day had gone “Areas as beautiful as this are attracting more and more sporting events and it’s great to be able to do this ourselves as a local concern supporting community members and businesses. This year a lot of people have travelled here just for the race which is fantastic as it gives us a chance to showcase the inspiring scenery around Betws-y-coed whilst confirming that we can put on events of a very high standard. ’’

Next year’s race will take place on November 7. Online entries will open April 1.

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*All photos credited to Gwynfor, Sport Pictures Cymru*

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KAJAKI The True Story: a modern British war film

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Last night members of the Help for Heroes Band of Brothers joined guests at the world premiere of KAJAKI. The True Story in Leicester Square, London.

It's a harrowing but powerful and inspiring depiction of an incident involving a group of soldiers who were trapped in a minefield in Afghanistan in 2006.

A small unit of soldiers is dug into a ridge overlooking the dam. A three man patrol sets out to disable a Taliban roadblock. In a dried out river bed at the foot of the ridge, one of the patrol detonates a land mine, blowing off his leg and setting in motion a desperate rescue mission. His fellow soldiers come to his aid, only to find themselves trapped in an unmarked minefield, a relic of the Russian invasion of the 1980s. With no way out, any movement risks certain injury and possible death. Out of this harrowing day came extraordinary tales of bravery, selflessness and heroism, but also tragic consequences, for leader Corporal Mark Wright and his comrades, who risked their own lives to help each other.

Director and Producer Paul Katis: “There has not been a war movie depicting British soldiers in true events from any conflict since the Second World War seventy years ago. We set out to rectify that with a film that depicts the experiences of soldiers in Afghanistan as they themselves remember.  The film is an honest and genuine retelling of an unbelievable true story that sets your pulse racing. It is also a heartfelt tribute to the young men who risk everything for us.” 

Bryn Parry, Co-Founder and CEO, Help for Heroes: "This is a significant British film. It’s an honest depiction of the experience of our Armed Forces in Afghanistan and shows the public what they went through.  Over 220,000 served in Iraq and Afghanistan and it’s important that they, and all veterans from past and future conflicts know that Help for Heroes is here for them and their families, whenever they need us."

KAJAKI. The True Story goes on general release in Vue Cinemas from 28 November

All revenue from ticket sales for the Premiere and pre-release screenings, and a portion of the profits from the film’s subsequent release, will benefit equally four military charities including Help for Heroes.

For more information go to kajakimovie.com

Help and Guidance:

If you are affected by the subject matter in the film, we recommend you contact one of the following organisations:

Help for Heroes Hidden Wounds 01980 844 300 (Monday - Friday 0900 - 1700) or email hidden.wounds@helpforheroes.org.uk if you are a veteran or family of a Serving member of the Armed Forces.

Forces Line 0800 7314880 (Monday – Friday 10.30 – 19.30)
Free and 100% confidential helpline that provides a supportive, listening and signposting service for serving personnel, former members of the Armed Forces and their families.
Samaritans 0845 7909090 ROI 1850 609090. (available 24 hours)
Available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts.
Combat Stress 0800138 1619 (available 24 hours)
Confidential and safe help and advice about Service-related mental health issues for the whole military community.

 

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Antarctic Ice Kayak

Kevin Wright is taking on a personal challenge early next year but the fundraising process has been a true family effort. Kevin’s grandchildren have sold merchandise from our H4H Shop in a Box and his wife and daughters have been hard at work baking to raise funds. Their extraordinary efforts have raised £485 so far, setting Kevin well on his way to his fundraising target.

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Kevin says of his challenge, “It started when I was about 8 years old after watching the movie Scott of the Antarctic starring Sir John Mills. Oh yes it was in black and white in those days! After that I was always fascinated with TV programs about Robert Scott, Ernest Shackleton etc.

Later in life while serving with mountain rescue, a team member shared with me a similar vision but he made a decision at the age of 12 to follow Scott’s footsteps to the South Pole. Eventually he did it with two others and went on to walk to the North Pole, becoming the first man in history to walk to both Poles. Robert has since become an international speaker and operates a charity called 2041 with a mission to save the world’s last wilderness.

In 2012 I went to see the Natural History Museum’s exhibit of Scott’s 100th anniversary of reaching the South Pole and came away knowing that one way or another I must find a way to visit Antarctica. So the saving and the planning started and my brother decided to join me along with two friends. Immediately I started to diet and exercise to ensure I would be fit enough. By September 2013 I felt I was ready and during a visit to Australia my brother and I started to plan things properly. However, upon my return I had two bicycle accidents within nine weeks which led to five broken bones and three operations including a knee replacement and a rebuilt shoulder.

Eventually I started to think I would never make it to Antarctica but was inspired again when Prince Harry and the group of injured soldiers walked to the South Pole. It was then that I felt I could do this. If these brave men and women can walk with artificial limbs why should a new knee and shoulder joint stop me!

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So if I'm going to go why not do something for others? H4H felt the right thing for both myself and my brother Gary so we decided to do the Ice Kayak between two ice sheets and have set a target to raise £2000 (hopefully more) for the charity.”

Kevin and his brother leave for Antarctica on 28/02/15. With his indomitable spirit Kevin will overcome whatever obstacles are in his way!

To sponsor the team on this extraordinary journey visit BMyCharity

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Heroes display camaraderie during outdoor activity trip

Wounded, injured and sick veterans and service personnel spent three days at Mersea Island Outdoor Activity Centre as part of their recovery programme, organised and funded by Help for Heroes. 

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The group set off from the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester, Chavasse VC House, and began their three day challenge navigating a set of low ropes designed to develop trust, team work and communication skills. Working with a range of injuries including leg, back, neck and spinal problems as well as illnesses such as cancer the six men and one woman, all of whom have been or will be medically discharged from the Armed Forces, supported each other to get around the course without touching the ground.

Once completed, some of the team moved on to the 24’ climbing wall and aerial runway whilst others whose injuries prevented them from accessing these activities demonstrated their own extraordinary power by hoisting themselves on the assisted high ropes. By the end of an exhausting but rewarding first day the team headed back to their log cabin base camp to cook for each other and practise domestic independence, which in itself can be a challenge following injury.

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The second day, 11 November, was always going to be emotionally draining and after spending time down at the beach to mark the two minute silence, the camaraderie really shone through. Huddled in a cluster and holding their berets they remembered their fallen friends but were determined to live firmly in the present. Donning overalls and protective helmets they then set about performing a staged cave rescue in purpose built caves. For some, just entering the dark confined space was a huge achievement as they confronted their fears.

It was during this task that their military training really came to the fore; splitting into small teams to search and rescue, map interpretation and communication flowed effortlessly and within no time they had found the ‘casualty'. After a vital food re-fuelling pit-stop, the next challenge was archery which brought out a healthy competitive spark amongst heroes and staff.

The final day was a walk around the island and a chance to meet the Recovery Centre's latest Induction class. This group of wounded serving personnel, who are new to the recovery process, got the chance to chat with our small team of Heroes already along the recovery pathway. They were able to reassure their fellow colleagues that charities such as Help for Heroes were there for them every step of the way, for life.  

 

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“Thrilling”, “challenging” and “fun” were some of the words used to describe the trip and as if this wasn’t praise enough  the wife of one of our Heroes, who is herself a Help for Heroes Band of Sisters member, spotted him smiling in a photograph, wrote: 

“My OH (other half) is on a Band of Brothers break organised by the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre, Chavasse VC House, I have just seen pictures of him SMILING. I can’t even remember the last time I saw him with a natural, unforced smile. Really made my day”.

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