A former Army Captain turned beekeeper has scooped a national award for his successful transition from the services to civvy street.
John Geden was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in 2014 and has now set up his own bee-farming business, called “Sinah Common Honey”.
The 36-year-old, from Hayling Island, Hampshire was honoured at the Nationwide Resettlement Awards last week, winning Business Start Up of the Year, beating off two other category finalists. He was presented with his award at a glittering black tie event held at Hotel Football in Manchester by TV presenter Bill Turnbull.
Run by Pathfinder International, the organisation which helps military resettlement with careers and training and Nationwide, the awards were created to celebrate the achievements of those leaving the services who have made a successful transition from life in the armed forces to life as a civilian.
John, who was nominated for the award by Help for Heroes, joined the army shortly after leaving school as a non-commissioned soldier in the Royal Military Police but after five years’ service, he was given the opportunity to convert to a commission. He served for four years in Germany before being posted to Northern Ireland and Cyprus.
He now sells honey and bee related products such as beeswax candles and also runs training courses for new and improving beekeepers.
Explaining his decision to launch his own business, he said: “During my 10 years in the Army and 22 years in Hampshire Police, I encountered many unpleasant things that have left me with some unpleasant memories and mental scars. 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.
“I was in a dead zone about living with PTSD and deciding what to do. Working with other people had its limitations for me. I had been keeping bees for many years as a hobby and, after considering a few other options, I decided that this was the best fit for me. It is a fairly solitary existence but I have measures in place to address this and most importantly I am happy Beekeeping rids my brain of negative thoughts.”
In late 2013, John suffered a severe nervous-breakdown and was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. He said: “These were things that I have never been bothered by before and it shattered my whole self-belief and took away a lot of my confidence and enthusiasm.
“My own mental health has been a constant burden. I have had a few re-lapses and this crucifies my motivation and confidence. I still suffer from nightmares three times a week and they can be really graphic. It has a massive impact on my ability to hold down a normal 9 – 5 job. However I have strong support from my family and friends.”
John, who received £3,500 from Help for Heroes to enable him to launch his business, said he was both “humbled and astonished” when he found out he had won the award.
“Help for Heroes and X Forces have given me a lot of confidence and supported me every step of the way,” he said. I also know that they are there continually and can help me as I grow and develop, providing me with a sounding board for my ideas.
“To nominate me for this award, Help for Heroes have seen something in me I perhaps wasn’t seeing in myself. They never turn their back on people and have demonstrated in spade loads what it means to be part of a family.
“If it wasn’t for Help for Heroes and the support they gave me, there is absolutely no way I would be where I am today. The training, support and ongoing mentoring, along with the grant funding, have kicked me forward.”
National Career Recovery Manager at Help for Heroes, Debbie Boundy, said: “John is a shining example of what can be achieved post-injury with the support of Help for Heroes Career Recovery. We recognise that for men and women like John, who have had their confidence knocked by injury or illness, they still possess huge amounts of potential and can achieve great things in the world of business.
“Self employment is a very realistic option for many of our wounded veterans and service personnel. Traits that are developed in the military such as high work ethic, consistently striving to do the best, teamwork and judgement, are the type of skills you need to succeed. If they apply that to their own business, and with the right guidance from Help for Heroes and our partners, their life outside of the Armed Forces can be a successful one.”