Veterans Walk & Talk (VW&T) is an innovative programme launched by the UK-based charity, Veterans in Action (VIA). This initiative is a beacon of hope for veterans grappling with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life. By harnessing the power of community, physical activity, and shared experiences, VW&T is making a significant difference in the lives of veterans across the UK.
VIA has a rich history of organising long-distance walking expeditions for veterans. Over the years, they have travelled an astounding 13,500 miles across the UK, involving more than 500 veterans in these journeys. Walking, as an activity, has proven to be an effective means of engaging veterans, particularly those dealing with PTSD. The VW&T initiative is a natural progression of this approach, offering a more accessible format that can reach a wider audience.
The inception of VW&T is rooted in the understanding that the first step toward healing is often the hardest. By creating an environment that encourages veterans to take that initial step, VW&T is helping to break down the barriers that often prevent veterans from seeking help.
The primary objective of VW&T is to provide support to veterans and their families who are struggling with the aftermath of war or finding the transition to civilian life challenging. The programme is designed to combat isolation and help participants rebuild their confidence, self-esteem, and self-belief.
The pilot project in Andover was a resounding success, with 102 veterans participating in just eight weeks. This number continues to grow, demonstrating the effectiveness of the programme and the pressing need for such initiatives.
VW&T serves as a gateway to a variety of activities run by VIA. In addition to the walks, veterans are introduced to a range of projects that cater to different interests and skills. These include building Land Rovers, off-road driving, filming and photography, cooking on a budget, and using an exercise suite.
These activities not only provide veterans with a sense of purpose and achievement but also equip them with valuable skills that can be beneficial in their civilian lives. Furthermore, shared meals such as breakfast or BBQ cooked by veterans at the VIA centre foster a sense of community and camaraderie, reinforcing the supportive network that VW&T aims to build.
As the project progresses, veterans are invited to participate in longer walks and challenges, culminating in multi-day walking challenges that utilise VIA’s expedition equipment and vehicles. These challenges provide veterans with an opportunity to push their boundaries and build resilience, further aiding their healing process.
The long-term aim of VW&T is to establish walks in different towns and cities, eventually connecting these to create a nationwide network where veterans can always access a walk. This ambitious goal will take time and effort to achieve, but it promises to build a supportive community of veterans across the country.
In conclusion, the Veterans Walk & Talk initiative is a shining example of how innovative, community-based approaches can make a significant difference in the lives of veterans. By providing a platform for connection, physical activity, and shared experiences, VW&T is helping veterans regain their confidence and find their place in civilian life.
For more information about Veterans Walk & Talk and other initiatives by Veterans in Action, visit http://veteransinaction.org.uk/veterans-walk-talk/.
ALIVE VIRTUAL CHALLENGES are unique compared to those you might find through an internet search. These challenges not only make a difference for yourself but also for military veterans who have experienced the effects of war or who have struggled with transitioning to civilian life.
Unlike traditional challenges where you simply pay a fee and receive a medal, our challenges are all about MAKING A DIFFERENCE by raising funds equivalent to the mileage you complete.
Click here for more information
I needed focus I needed something to fill my time, well maybe not fill my time but something to focus on like a target, a needed to get back my drive.
I started to help VIA ‘Veterans In Action’ and found something that I could do, use the old skills that I learnt in the army and more since I left which I did not register I had.
I had been missing that motivation to do something that I wanted to do and gain that level of self-gratification and achievement.
Everybody has a skill set, but it’s the motivation to use it we can lose, VIA have various projects on the go all the time, hopefully I have found my niche to help them and myself to gain personal gratification by being a member of a team again and a job well done.
After discussions I realised that it’s this which advances my mental well-being and my ongoing fight against depression and the feeling of worthlessness.
I have woken up, helping hand in hand with fellow soldiers suffering from labelled disorders finding strength from weakness, realising what helps them generally does helps me, the recognition has been an awakening.”
Ian ‘Chalky’ White former 17th/21st Lancers and B Sqn 22 SAS
Veterans In Action have been filming our expeditions for many years for our YouTube Channel, Veterans Expeditions Overland, and through this experience of not only running the expeditions but also capturing footage that enables veterans who have taken part in a place of reference to recapture how they felt by taking part.
The Veterans In Focus project enables veterans to learn new skills and record not only the expeditions we run but also the day-to-day work on all projects connecting them all together so everyone feels involved in all aspects of the work we do.
VIA take a long-term approach to helping veterans who suffer to enable them to grow within a project working alongside their peers. All this can be achieved within this project which can be ongoing and would allow veterans to learn new skills or to pass on skills learned during their time in the services
Some of the outcomes of the project are a sense of purpose, regaining confidence and working in an environment alongside other veterans where they can instantly feel relaxed, chilled-out, secure, and safe.
Veterans can work at their own pace, stop thinking negatively, concentrate, learn new skills, be part of building something, and most importantly where problems are understood this will positively impact mood and stress levels.
For those involved in the project, they can also get involved on an expedition HERE
I became involved with VIA in 2010 after my life took a turn for the worse and was invited along to do some fundraising with them. This helped me no end and in time my life got back on track. I completed a Union Flag Walk with them from Cape Wrath to Land’s End which again helped as walking and talking with other veterans with similar stories was a great help in understanding how I was feeling. I gained control of my life again.
In 2019, I took part in an overland expedition travelling through the Spanish Pyrenees and whilst away my life took a turn for the worse again due to family problems back in the UK. On my return I had to start again and rebuild and focus on the future and with the help of Veterans In Action I got back on track and took control.
I now own and run my own courier business.
Mark Colman former Royal Engineers
To date, we have travelled 25,000 miles travelling through 30 different countries and some of them several times both on overland expeditions for humanitarian aid through the pandemic and more recently supplying medical humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
It is important to note that to take part in one of our overland expeditions we insist that veterans get involved in the BUILD IT part of the project. The reason for this is part of the Post Traumatic Growth process which is our method for helping veterans so that veterans can grow within a team of their peers, learning new skills and relearning old skill sets that may have been forgotten after service.
Leading up to an expedition involves expedition training which will include off-road driving, navigation, camp setups, camp cooking and daily maintenance, something most veterans will understand from their time in the services.
It would be unfair for any individual to turn up on the day of an expedition who hadn’t previously been involved as everyone else would have been working together over a long period of time so due to the very nature of the mental health problems of those we take out on expedition turning up on day 1 for any individual could become very difficult to find where they fit in no matter how welcoming everyone was.
It is the involvement long-term on building the vehicles that enable veterans to grow that gets them to a place where they fully enjoy all aspects of the expedition experience starting from the minute that an overland expedition sets off.