An injured Veteran has spoken of his pride at leading the very first Prince’s Trust leadership programme outside of the United Kingdom, made possible through funding from Help for Heroes.
James Ashton, 24, from Stoke-on-Trent, delivered a 12-week Team Programme in Barbados, in coordination with The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust and The Royal Barbados Police Force. He was granted £15,000 worth of funding from Help for Heroes.
While on the course, 12 young people undertook work placements, gained practical skills, delivered a community project and completed a residential week.
Former Highlander James was medically discharged from the Army in 2013.
“After I left the military, I went travelling and it wasn’t long after my return that I got a phone call asking if I’d like to take up the opportunity of working with the Prince’s Trust in Barbados,” James explained.
“It was an opportunity I happily grasped and I loved every minute of it. I managed to widen my skill set and also learnt more about the civilian lifestyle. It taught me to relax more.”
James was medically discharged after being diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome, which began after he fractured his wrist lifting weights. He has only 60% movement in his right arm.
He previously volunteered with the Trust in the UK as an Assistant Team Leader while he was still serving. He underwent Team Leader training, which equipped him with the skills to support young people in their positive development.
“When I first got told I was leaving the Army, I went into a dark place, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen to me next. It was my PRO officer who lifted my spirits. He put me in touch with the Prince’s Trust and I haven’t looked back since.
“Working with the young people in Barbados, you realise how lucky you really are as they are often in a worse place. But their spirits are so high. It makes you realise that life really is what you make it.
"Seeing the difference you can make to so many young lives is incredibly rewarding. There aren't a huge amount of opportunities for young people in Barbados, so the work we did over there was really important to the community. To know I played a part in that means so much to me. I now have a completely different mind-set and approach to my recovery and life beyond it.”
Since 2010, Help for Heroes has grant funded £1 million to The Prince’s Trust to ensure our wounded, injured and sick gain valuable experience in working with young people and developing leadership skills in a civilian setting. The partnership has already supported over 160 Veterans to further develop their confidence, life skills and employability; with 14 Veterans moving directly into work across the past year alone.