The Fridge Hiker

Matthew Bamber is a 41 year old H4H supporter and fundraiser looking to take on a hiking challenge with a bit of a difference. Spurred on by this year's Invictus Games 2016 coverage, Matthew decided to do something to help support our 'blokes': trekking through the Lake District with a 30kg Hotpoint fridge strapped to his back!

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For Matthew, the way in which he wanted to 'do his bit' had to relate to what our servicemen and women of the Armed Forces go through on the front line. He worked out that Royal Marines in the Falklands hiked with over 36kg on their backs in treacherous conditions, so why can't I? thought Matthew.

With an idea in his head and determination in his heart, Matthew set about organising the finer details of this rather unique trekking challenge, chief of which being the type of fridge he'd be hauling around the slops and fells of the glorious Lakes. He settled on a certain type of Hotpoint refrigerator which now needed a frame to slip around his shoulders.

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Shipped across the pond Matthew's hardcore "Freighter Frame" arrived and the task of marrying fridge and frame now lay at his feet. With help from his father holes were drilled, bits were pulled off, an angle grinder even made an appearance in the process of bringing this beautiful partnership to life.

Eventually the frame was ready for its first test drive. It was taken for a yomp round Honister Slate Mine. An unsuspecting group of scouts and hill runners got a bit of a surprise seeing Matthew drag a fridge from the boot of his car, heave it onto his back, and set off up the hill!

Matthew will take on the challenge on September 10 where he plans to hike 50 miles with the fridge on his back. He is aiming to raise £3000 for Help for Heroes!

Check out his JustGiving page and help him smash his target!

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How youth work helped injured veteran to start again

Jimmy Thorpe, a former Scots Guard, suffered a life changing injury whilst on tour in Afghanistan in 2010. He initially struggled to adjust to civilian life, but thanks in part to funding from Help for Heroes, he has established a career in youth work and is employed by The Prince’s Trust, where he helps vulnerable young people to take control of their lives.

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Here is his story in his own words:

“It was in 2010 when life as I knew it changed forever and my career in the army came to an abrupt end. I was on tour in Afghanistan when the blast from an Improvised Explosive Device damaged my coccyx and caused multiple injuries to my entire left leg, resulting in chronic pain disorder.

“In many ways, I found it more difficult to come to terms with leaving the army than with the injury itself. After years of being in the army, the realities of moving back to my home town of Blackburn hit me like a tonne of bricks. I felt very disconnected from civilian life and employment prospects were bleak, but I was determined to move forward with my life.

“Things started to change when I responded to an advert for The Prince’s Trust. The youth charity has long supported military personnel making the transition into civilian life; a commitment it bolstered earlier this year by signing the Armed Forces Covenant.

“One of the many ways The Trust supports ex-servicemen and women is by enabling wounded, injured or sick personnel to access secondments on its Team programme, a 12-week personal development course. I was selected to work as an Assistant Team Leader for Groundwork, a role initially supported with a grant from the Department for Education’s Military Ethos funding and later through Help for Heroes. My role was to help vulnerable young people to gain the skills, confidence and qualifications they needed to move into work, education or training.

“I could see the same sense of uncertainty I had so recently felt in many of the young people we were helping, but knew that with the right support they would find their way and build a better future for themselves. The experience of working with them was hugely rewarding and gave me a new sense of purpose.

“When my secondment with Groundwork came to an end, I accepted a new role as a Fairbridge programme executive at The Prince’s Trust’s Pennine Lancashire Centre in Burnley. I was soon promoted to Programme manager and now help young people on The Trust’s Fairbridge programme.

“Looking back, it’s amazing to think I’ve come so far. Youth work has given me a new lease of life, so to anyone who feels daunted by having their military career cut short, I’d say this – keep going, there’s something out there for you.”

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Jamie Hull helps other disabled veterans take up scuba diving

A soldier who defied doctors’ odds by surviving a horrific plane crash with 63% burns is helping injured war veterans push the limits of their disabilities as a scuba diving instructor thanks to support from Help for Heroes.

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Jamie Hull, 41, from Hertfordshire, a former private in the Parachute Regiment, survived life-changing injuries when he was involved in an air crash in 2007 while training for his private pilot’s licence.  

During the long road to recovery, he endured 58 major operations and battled severe depression.

He says scuba diving gave him the means of fighting back against his horrific injuries - and is now honoured to be helping other wounded soldiers to do the same.

Jamie is now a fully qualified diving instructor with the Army Sub Aqua Diving Association (ASADA), a BSAC special branch, on the Help for Heroes-funded Sports Recovery programme.

The programme runs twice yearly diving expeditions to the island of Gozo in Malta to train ex-servicemen and women to scuba dive.

“Diving is at the forefront of what I do now and believe in,” said Jamie, as he returned from his latest mission with the programme.

“Considering where I was physically and mentally post injury in comparison to where I am now as a result of pushing the boundaries, it has helped me enormously.

“I was going through a long and gruesome recovery in the early years and diving provided me with a tool to fight back.

“I’m in a much stronger place because of my efforts going back into the world of recreational diving. It did a lot to uplift me mentally.

“From my experience there’s no better way to help yourself than to help others and that’s what I’ve set out to do.”

Jamie, a qualified mountain leader who runs global military-style expeditions in addition to teaching diving, joined the Army on the completion of a degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, at the age of 24. Throughout his studies, he was attached to the Cambridge University Officer Training Corps, where he gained a commission as an Army Reservist at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in Surrey, in 2003.

Before his accident, Jamie had served across the world in his seven-year career with the Army.

He had been flying 1,000 feet above Ormond Beach airfield in Florida in 2007 when the engine of the Liberty XL2 two-seater plane he was piloting caught fire, sweeping through the cockpit. Amazingly, he managed to level the aircraft 15ft above the ground before climbing onto the left wing and leaping out.

He suffered more than 60% burns and his chances of survival were slim but he battled his way through a six-month coma and numerous operations and reconstructive surgery to give himself the best shot of a normal life.

“I started to test myself and push my limitations,” he said.

“I realised I could still do things despite having 60%, third degree burns. That’s a large number in terms of trauma and coming back from that is no mean feat. It was extremely difficult and impossible to describe, it was horrific. The early years were tough.

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“I knew diving from old and I wanted to try it again. I thought if I can do this again then I would like to use the skills in earnest and help others.

“Scuba diving is a huge rehabilitation tool. It’s an extremely powerful medium in sport rehab.

“It isn’t easy, it requires a degree of physical prowess and yet I’ve seen paraplegics and triple amputees be able to pull this off and I think it’s marvellous.

“When you’re working against the resistance of water and increased pressure at depth it magnifies the benefits of being on the surface of the water while swimming. It’s a wonderful tool for anyone who has a physical vulnerability.”

So far, 18 diving expeditions have been organised in collaboration between Help for Heroes and BSAC’s ASADA branch, resulting in 80 qualifications.

Jamie has taken part in six expeditions so far and sees his role as central to his future.

“Diving is a way of breaking down those anxiety barriers and through this it enhances individual confidence. It benefits their recovery and I see it time and time again,” he said.

“These guys have been through the mill and have benefitted immensely. I see a huge transition in their confidence every time.

“I probably have the ability to inspire them. I have come from a strong military background and have been through a tough time myself. I’m in much better shape now than ever before. For someone like myself to deliver this kind of training is quite powerful which is why I do what I do.

“Life is good again. I’m strong and getting on with life. I’ve achieved more than I ever thought I could.” 

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Bryn's Blog | Looking forward to Rio 2016

We were delighted to hear that ten of our beneficiaries will be participating in the Paralympics, eight competing and two presenting. 

For those of us who have known Joe, JJ, Arthur, Mikey, Jon-Allan, Mickey, Phil, Dave, Nick and Jo since the early days of their recovery, this is a hugely proud moment. This is a moment that all the staff and supporters of Team H4H can share as you have all been a part of their journey; without you they would not be off to Rio. We will be watching their progress and willing them on to their personal best. Some may get medals but that’s not the point, it’s about being back in the game and it’s wonderful.

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Those ten will be in the spotlight, they will become household names and rightly so. What they have achieved is remarkable, extraordinary and worthy of our admiration; they deserve it, they are our heroes.

But don’t let us forget or underestimate our unsung heroes, those who face their own challenges, those who have no dream of Paralympic glory, those who find it hard to get through each day. Let us think about those whose days are filled with sorrow and their nights with silent screams, those whose personal best is still a very long way down the road.

There is hope and there are dreams yet to be fulfilled. I remember Arthur when he was first broken but beginning to fight back. I remember Jon-Allan when he lacked the confidence to ride a bike, I remember Iron Man Joe when he was looking for a future, I remember them all and now I can hardly believe what they have achieved. I am so proud of them and all those who have given them the help and support they needed to get back into the game and I am proud of all the others who will accept their own challenges and fight back with your help.

None of us knows what our futures hold but we can remember Churchill when he said;

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Help for Heroes is supported by ordinary people who just want to do their bit to support those who have done theirs. It is very simple and it makes a difference; never doubt that.

Your support has helped Arthur and JJ become television presenters and it has helped others become Paralympians or Invictus Games competitors but it has not stopped there. It has helped others get jobs, build homes, walk, swim, surf paint, write, sing, bake, get married, have children, find love, and to find the confidence to live again. You have been a part of something absolutely extraordinary and we have done it together; be very proud.

So, be very proud when you watch the Paralympics, cheer our heroes on and then get back out there with your own efforts to raise funds and to support the thousands of others who still dream of being back in the game.

With your help they will, together, we will help them rebuild their lives.

Onwards and upwards

Bryn Parry Signature

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Public knowledge of the Armed Forces Survey

A new study, commissioned by Help for Heroes, found that 83% of adults think British soldiers and Veterans should have more support when they come back from service. Yet, despite the on-going sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, 76% think that Service personnel and Veterans are ‘forgotten about’ once they return home.

The survey also found that many believe just 55,000 troops served in Afghanistan, when actually 139,000 deployed during the course of the conflict. And almost 150,000 troops served as part of UK military operations in Iraq from 2003 to 2011 – three times the 41,000 most adults thought were deployed.

The survey also showed we significantly underestimate current deployments with the average adult believing the UK currently has troops posted to 19 countries.

In fact the Armed Forces are currently deployed to over 80 countries.

David Richmond, Head of Recovery at Help for Heroes, said: “The survey shows that people in the UK are significantly underestimating the commitment made by our Armed Forces in recent years. This makes it incredibly difficult for Veterans and those still serving to get the specialist support they sometimes need. Wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and Veterans especially need the public to understand the challenges they face and what we can do to support them.

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 ”Without a better understanding among the public of the dangers facing our Armed Forces, Servicemen and women face a much greater challenge getting the support they might need.”

63% of people surveyed said that, since WWII, they struggle to understand what the UK’s war efforts have been in aid of. Furthermore just under 63% of adults felt they could not explain why the UK went to war in Afghanistan.

Nearly a quarter of respondents believe the UK originally went to war in Afghanistan to prevent weapons of mass destruction being used, while more than one in 10 think the UK entered the conflict in Afghanistan to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

An overwhelming 94% of people admit they haven’t heard of Operation Herrick, while 88% didn’t know that Operation Telic was the codename for UK military operations in Iraq.

Just over one in ten (11%) respondents were unsure whether the UK is currently at war with the European Union.

A third of those polled had no idea the Falklands War ended in 1982 while a fifth of people didn’t know Britain was involved in the Gulf War.

Richmond said “Despite the end of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, British troops continue to deploy around the world.

“The public clearly think that more needs to be done to support our Armed Forces. It’s so important that the men and women who give so much remain in the public consciousness and aren’t forgotten.”

Help for Heroes offers comprehensive support to those who have suffered life-changing injuries and illnesses while serving our country. This support is provided through grants direct to our Heroes and their families, grants to other charities and through four Help for Heroes Recovery Centres across the UK. A recent study launched in January 2016 by Help for Heroes and King’s College London found of the 750,000 men and women who served as Regulars between 1991 and 2014, at least 66,000 need long term support.

See How we Help and Get Involved here.

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