Recently I used my Techmodal volunteer day to help take four veterans sailing. The boat was organised by the Gwennili Trust which partners with other charities and organisations to provide veterans with disabilities the opportunity to sail.
This particular week the trust partnered with Stoll, a charity that provides sheltered housing for veterans with disabilities. Over the week, I came to learn more about Stoll and the challenges faced by veterans with disabilities finding housing. Through a lottery, Stoll allocated four places which were claimed by four guys who had served in the Army and RAF.
Before arriving at Hamble Point Marina, I was apprehensive about the week and the forecasted thunderstorms!
First meeting with the crew, the apprehension was soon settled. Everyone was quickly bantering with each other and excited for a week away onboard Gull (the yacht for the week). During the week, the weather gods provided us with a range of weather that we adapted our passage plan to suit; rain, sun, thunder, lulls and wind.
Our plan for the week was driven by what the crew from Stoll wanted to do. Some of the highlights included a circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight, overnight anchor in Chichester and catching enough Mackerel for supper (excellent Caribbean fish stew!).
Living on the boat, we all shared jobs from cooking and cleaning to hauling the sheets. It was great to see over the week through teamwork, the crew gained confidence and proficiency in sailing the boat. At the end of the week, many of the crew were eager for future opportunities to sail. On my drive back to Bristol, I was reflecting on the week and the things I learned:
- Not all disabilities are visible.
- Many people live on their own and struggle with loneliness.
- Alcohol is a common coping mechanism and can often intensify the problem e.g. health issues, or violence.
- Supporting veterans is important irrespective of their length of service.
- Chatting to the crew about Stoll raised my awareness of the challenges faced by veterans with disabilities finding social housing.
- Importance of fun and laughter for mental health.
- Sailing is a great activity to bring together a group and provide a change from the “usual” daily routine.
Thank you to Techmodal for giving the time to support the work of Gwenilli Trust and Stoll in their help of veterans.