Centre Based Element
Throughout the development of VIA we were always conscious that after therapy or an expedition a veteran returned home but to what?
Sometimes they returned to a place that could indeed be part of the problem or that they felt isolated and in many cases they ended up just as they were or sometimes worse.
To help combat that, VIA looked locally where they were based in Andover, Hants for somewhere they could set up a centre and to develop projects that veterans and their families could get involved in that would challenge both physically and psychologically.
After visiting several potential locations which were on industrial estates with lots of noise, traffic and people which we believed would inhibit veterans attending, eventually we found the ideal location that although out of town was on a Private Estate in wonderful surrounding with horses and sheep in the fields.
The location in itself was therapeutic and although very rural was situated in the ideal location which is 5 miles from Andover and 3 miles from the largest military garrison in Britain, Tidworth Garrison soon to accommodate 15,000 soldiers and their families.
The centre lies on the Hants/Wilts border and is also close to Berkshire, Dorset and Sussex so an ideal location to help many veterans and their families.
VIA are in the process of developing the centre and projects that will be run from it and this will be ongoing as veterans come up with new ideas that we will take and then look at how they work to help veterans who suffer.
Centre Based Projects
Veterans In Focus
This project has been running for a few years now and came from listening to veterans over a meal in a café in London where they said they often went about the city taking pictures and how it made them feel. Billy MacLeod then looked into different methods of using photography and chose Therapeutic Photography as the method for the project.
Many veterans who suffer do not want to sit in on long drawn out lessons on photography so instead those who are interested are encouraged to pick up a camera and go off and take pictures, firstly around the estate and late on all aspects of what VIA do, the centre is covered in veterans photographs.
Veterans Ground Force
VIA have initially set up a small vegetable plot with raised beds at the ALIVE Centre but is hoped in future we can develop this with a plot of land on the estate. Studies have been undertaken by the charity Gardening Leave as to the impact of using gardening to help with stress.
THE IMPACT ON VETERANS
Veterans interviewed in the study suggested that the impact of the project on them could not be overestimated. The project was described as by some as a life-saver in the very real sense of giving a structure and sense of achievement to those prone to serious bouts of depression or who were extremely socially isolated in the civilian world.
Many veterans related the impact on them to issues such as confidence, a sense of purpose, self-respect, and learning. Some impacts of might be viewed in a holistic rather than clinical way.
- Sense of purpose: Many veterans reflected on how a sense of purpose had been missing in their lives, and the project had helped to give this back. This purpose was manifest in several ways; including a sense of pride, feeling motivated and giving something back by helping to develop the garden.
- Anticipation: Future visits were highly anticipated. For veterans who may be very isolated at home having something to look forward to and was seen as being positive.
- Mood and stress: Attending helped regain confidence which veterans did not feel they had in the civilian world because of illness and/or social isolation. To go into an environment where you instantly feel relaxed, chilled-out, secure and safe, can work at your own pace, can stop thinking negatively, can concentrate, learn new skills, be part of growing something, and most importantly where problems are understood – all impacted positively on mood and stress levels.
- Physical activity: The physical nature of the work for some as well as being out in the fresh air for all or part of the day did have positive impacts in relation to sleep related problems or being able to relax, remain calm or not become agitated.
- Transferable skills: Veterans could translate experiences into their everyday life, such as a motivation to create or develop their own gardens with the new knowledge they had gained. This is important in building direction