A group of wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women are set to embark on a special recovery tour this weekend, which will use cricket to help overcome perceived limitations of their physical and psychological injuries, as part of Help for Heroes’ extensive Sports Recovery Programme.
The two-week long tour, which is one of 300 different sporting opportunities the charity offers, uses the camaraderie of sport as part of a broader recovery journey, helping these men and women to overcome their life-changing injuries and illnesses.
The group of players, Cricket for Heroes, will arrive in Barbados on Monday 3 November, where they will play five fixtures against local Barbadian clubs. The games will not only provide physical benefits to the wounded, injured and sick heroes, but will also help them socially, in terms of interaction with others and self-confidence.
Through playing local Wiltshire teams in fixtures, Cricket for Heroes has so far raised more than £40,000 for Help for Heroes, and has raised its own funds for the tour. For the sixteen players going to Barbados, the tour is the culmination of months of hard work, effort and determination.
Alan McClelland, a Psychological Wellbeing Advisor for Help for Heroes, said the tour would be instrumental in the recovery process for the wounded, injured and sick. He said: “When you get injured, your confidence can reach rock bottom and it is very easy to believe you will never play sport again. It is hard to appreciate what playing cricket and being part of a team gives to these men and women.
“I know how effective and life reaffirming these adventures can be and I'm sure every one of the team will have taken a huge step forward in their recovery after the tour.”
Fiona Gray, 41, served for nearly 20 years in the Army before being medically discharged after suffering an ankle injury. She has been unable to play sports for the past three years due to her injuries, which, she said, had a huge effect on her mentally and physically.
“Being part of the Help for Heroes cricket team and preparing for this tour has helped me experience team spirit once again and has given me a huge amount of confidence,” she said. “Help for Heroes has played such a significant role in my recovery, and being part of a team has helped me to successfully focus on what I can do rather than dwell on what I can’t.”
A Royal Engineer, Jason Wilkes, 40, suffered burns to his hands and face, and shrapnel wounds to his jaw when was injured in Iraq in 2006 by a suicide bomber who drove up beside the convoy he was travelling in. Jason suffered burns to his hands and face as well as shrapnel in his jaw. He went on to recover from his injuries, only to then be involved in a shooting in 2009 in Northern Ireland. He was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was medically discharged in February 2014.
Of being part of the tour, Jason he said: “It is not just for me, but it is to show everybody suffering from PTSD or mental health problems that you can still get out there and do something. Hopefully the tour will show others that you can become involved in activities and you do not have to suffer in silence.”
Help for Heroes has been involved with Sports Recovery for six years, and in the past year alone have put on 300 events across 50 different sports enabling over 1,800 wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans to take part in adaptive sports.
To keep up to date with the cricket tour and other activities on the Help for Heroes' Sports Recovery Programme, follow @H4H_SR on Twitter.