Former Band Sergeant Major Melvin White served for 30 years with the Royal Anglians and the Corps of Army Music, touring in Germany, America, Belize, Turkey and Israel. After a back injury and developing knee problems forced him to retire, Melvin found Help for Heroes.
He said: “I did woodturning at school but never really finished anything. It’s very rewarding to make something useful and be able to take it home. The beauty of woodturning is that anyone can take part; no matter what age or ability they are. With each session I see everyone’s self-assurance increase and their abilities being stretched. Those who once felt quite isolated now engage more with the rest of the group and it’s increased their confidence to return to work.
“I find working with the wood quite therapeutic. It also helps reduce anxieties as when working on the lathe you have to concentrate very hard in order to not make a mistake. This focus means that all other worries go out the window in that moment.”
A group of beneficiaries, with the help of Colchester Woodturners Group, are now working together to make a chess set for the Recovery Centre. Melvin explained: “The chess set will be larger than normal so that those with prosthetic arms can grab the pieces without difficulty and if they’re knocked then they won’t fall over as easily. It’s nice to be able to work together and give something back to those who have helped us.”
It’s not just woodturning that has helped Melvin’s overall wellbeing improve.
“Help for Heroes has changed my life dramatically and has got me active again. With Pilates classes I’ve even been able to reduce my pain medication. I’ve tried making scale models, baking cakes, clay-pigeon shooting, plate making, reflexology and the rifle club. I seem to have found my calling with woodturning though.
“It’s brought about a sense of calm in me; to be surrounded by people who have had similar experiences and understand what I’ve seen. Not to mention the camaraderie and military banter! Coming from the Army I’m used to being kept busy, and meeting new people and having new hobbies has refreshed my wellbeing - I’m much happier and more content.”