Building on a strong start to 2023, Veterans Outreach Support has wrapped up its second quarter of the year with lots to celebrate.
Strap in for a long list of exactly what we got up to through April, May, and June, including info about our growing membership, exciting new partnerships, and some personal stories from our day-in/day-out work of supporting welfare, mental health and wellbeing in our local veteran community.
Here is just about everything that happened for VOS in Q2 of 2023:
Successful Drop-Ins (Mini and Full-Sized)
This quarter saw more successful Drop-Ins that were graciously hosted by the Royal Maritime Hotel (RMH) in Portsmouth and the Riverside Centre on the Isle of Wight. (Pictured above is a Drop-In at the RMH and a social hub at the Donkey Sanctuary featuring members of our lovely IOW community!)
Our Drop-Ins are a perfect way to experience VOS camaraderie and take advantage of the many resources available locally to veterans and their spouses, partners and carers. They feature dedicated volunteers who welcome new members with kindness, and welfare/clinical professionals who provide mental health support in private (one-on-one) for those who may need it.
With the Easter season and the Coronation of King Charles III taking place around our April and May Drop-Ins, attendees got to enjoy festive decorations and activities that really raised the spirits. Thank you to the Southern Coop for their kind donation of chocolate Easter eggs for our volunteers to enjoy on a busy Drop-In day.
The VOS team also did outreach in Ventnor and Freshwater on the IOW this quarter and, on the mainland, some ‘Mini Drop-In Days’- including in Emsworth at the Emsworth Community Centre and Gosport, at the Gosport Voluntary Action (GVA) Hub.
All in all, our Drop-Ins helped to enable 71 new registrations which includes those on the IOW, and 245 returning service users coming back to Drop-Ins for help with their own mental health, wellbeing or welfare needs.
Learn more here: Veterans Outreach Support Drop-Ins.
Thriving Social Groups & Wellbeing Activities
We are pleased to report that due to popular demand, VOS Isle of Wight has been hosting additional social hubs on Pigsty Farm! That’s on top of the regular weekly social groups hosted across the island which you can read about here.
On the mainland, social groups were as well attended as ever. You may have joined us at our weekly ‘Tea & Stickies’ Tuesday social or our weekly meetups at The Crofton Club where veterans came together for ‘Brew, Butties & Banter,’ and weekly online ‘Brew & Banter’ sessions via Zoom.
We also continued our Mid-Month Musters at the Royal Maritime Hotel, and added new ‘Craft & Chat’ sessions once monthly at the RMH too. Attendance for the Craft & Chat has gotten off to a slow start, but one service user did have this to say about it: “Just had a lovely time at craft and chat meeting new ladies, painting rocks and chatting loads. Come along next month folks, it’s fun!”
There was no shortage of creative activities for VOS members this quarter. Our wellbeing calendar was set up on Eventbrite for the first time, allowing service users to read more about each activity individually and book directly onto them.
April-June saw us join forces with:
- Bound By Veterans for book binding sessions,
- Paint & Chill Co. for painting activities,
- Artypotz for ceramic painting sessions in Portsmouth,
- Fired Arts Ceramics Studio for ceramic painting in IOW,
- Wight Apothecary for making macramé,
- James Mouland Ebru Studio for ebru painting,
- SouthseaEyes for lino printing and card making,
- Yoga by Emily for accessible yoga.
Some highlights of our quarter were the wellbeing activities that took us further afield, like our trips to the deeply moving Standing with Giants exhibition in Fort Nelson (pictured below) and our informative visits to the historic Mary Rose Museum.
Making a Difference with Practical Welfare Support
VOS’ welfare capabilities are designed to help service users with direct support, or through working closely with trusted partners. We also offer 1 to 1 advice for any local veteran and/or spouse/carer who needs impartial, relevant and up-to-date information about DWP (benefits), pensions and other government legislation, so they can make informed choices that improve their quality of life. Housing, employment, debt and other subjects all cross the desk of our dedicated welfare team.
Welfare support, like many other areas such as clinical, is necessarily confidential, so whilst we don’t point to specific examples, we will be putting together a general case study in Q3, that will offer more insight into what our Welfare Support team manages day to day.
Awareness Campaigns and Special Days
This quarter contained multiple national awareness-raising days, weeks, and months highlighting issues near and dear to our community, so we did our best to give each one some much deserved acknowledgement:
April was Month of the Military Child, and we took the opportunity to promote our partner charities and other organisations that support children of military families in creative and meaningful ways.
From 15-21 May, Mental Health Awareness Week had us calling attention to the mental health support services available through VOS, including our wellbeing activities. We published a Case Study and video featuring two VOS service users named Jim and Sally explaining just how wellbeing activities improved their mental health. Catch it here if you’ve not yet seen it, and watch this space for more case studies in the future. (Next time with a focus on ‘welfare…’)
Volunteers’ Week (1-7 June) saw our staff and trustees share multiple messages of support for our hardworking volunteer team, through email, social media, and in-person at the Drop-In held during that time. We also began a Volunteer of the Month initiative this quarter, a rotating acknowledgement of our fantastic volunteers. Continued congrats go out to our three Volunteers of the Month this quarter: Tony for April, Jess for May, and Zandra for June.
For Carers Week (5-11 June) we published a blog dedicated to the carers among us, highlighting that our services DO EXTEND to carers of veterans from the Armed Forces and/or Merchant Navy. They are valuable members of our community all year round!
June was Pride Month, and we were pleased to participate in Portsmouth Pride on Southsea Common. Members of staff were there to show our support for the LGBTQ+ people in our community, and to cheer for values like inclusion, diversity, and equality. We shared pictures from the day on our social media alongside links to Fighting with Pride, and we continue to be vocal supporters of LGBTQ+ veterans and their families.
On Falklands Liberation Day (14th June) we paused to remember all those whose lives were lost in the Falklands conflict. We used social media to encourage any local Falklands veterans (or their spouses, partners and carers) who may have been affected by the anniversary to reach out for support.
Armed Forces Week (19-25 June) had VOS staff, volunteers, and service users out in full force at a handful of fun events we promoted ahead of time via emails, social media posts, and an AFD event round-up blog. You can see picture proof of the fun we had here, on the Portsmouth News website, and in the photos at the top of this section!
Celebrating Generous Grants and Donations
We are so grateful to everyone who made charitable donations to Veterans Outreach Support this quarter! Our most recent donation came from Sister Jooles (pictured above) who raised £650 with her team at the Trafalgar Practice, Eastney Health Centre. She shaved her head to raise the funds, and we are still amazed at her generosity. Thank you, Sister Jooles!
Another big thank you went out to Trinity House Maritime Charity which provided us with an incredibly impactful grant of £10,000. We wrote about this grant (and our appreciation) in further detail here. Trinity House Maritime Charity helps our nation’s mariners and maritime industries, and as VOS CEO Ian Millen put it in his thank you message to the organisation responsible for the maintenance of the UK’s lighthouses, “This funding will provide an equally helpful beacon of hope and pathway for those whose seafaring days are behind them, but who need the support that VOS can give.”
In June, we celebrated local business Knights for naming Veterans Outreach Support its Charity of the Year! Along with keeping a donation bucket in their offices and running a JustGiving donation page for us, the kind people at Knights have already begun to organise some community events for our benefit, including lunchtime bingo and a football tournament!
We were also awarded an amazing £15,000 grant from The Seafarers’ Charity at this time. This grant will help us continue the important work we do for mental health, welfare and wellbeing services for local Royal Navy AND Merchant Navy veterans and their partners/spouses and carers. We look forward to putting it to good use! More information and thank yous can be found here.
VOS has long worked closely with NHS providers, but Q2 saw us receiving NHS project funding for the first time ever, and we’re delighted to deepen our collaboration with the NHS! We received £8,000 from NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICB towards the funding of our welfare activities for a year. This funding is from the ‘Adult Community Mental Health Transformation (No Wrong Door) Programme’ across Hampshire, Southampton, Isle of Wight, and Portsmouth, funding projects that advance mental health equalities and support better mental health outcomes for under-represented groups in the local area.
Community Connections: Succeeding Together for All Veterans
At Veterans Outreach Support, we love joining forces with like-minded charities and organisations with the common goal of improved veteran wellbeing.
Two of our number (Wendy and John) attended the Annual Governor’s Review of the Chelsea Pensioners this quarter and met with the Chelsea Pensioners themselves. One kindly explained that they have visited VOS in the past and said they got some of their wellbeing activity ideas from us! The Pensioners have opened their own centre called Veterans Outreach, with a kiln for pottery, kitchen for cooking and baking (a big hit with retired army chefs!), and even a gin-making setup. We left feeling proud and inspired.
We also met Keith from the QAH and agreed to participate in a new Veterans Breakfast event for all local veterans and their families- this will be a quarterly event with a bacon roll and cuppa included, in a quite nice breakfast space.
In May, our CEO Ian Millen headed to Worthy Down for the ‘Hampshire Civilian Military Partnership Conference.’ Ian spoke about VOS, and VOS-service-user-turned-volunteer Nigel gave a presentation about his firsthand experience with our charity, which earned high praise from the Chairman of the Civilian Military Partnership Board (CMPB). We are proud to be part of important conversations like these, which help to establish best practices for veterans hubs in Hampshire.
We were happy to help promote Veterans in Action (VIA), one of our partner charities in the VPPPSE portfolio, as they campaigned for votes this May. We were even happier when they won their vote!
Our next collaboration involves the Soldier’s Arts Academy (SAA) and is a very exciting one! We are pleased to help fund some SAA opportunities through one of our Armed Forces Covenant programmes. VOS and VPPP service users who are veterans of ‘modern conflicts’ (from the year 2000 and beyond) can remotely access the many creative projects SAA runs, whether as part of a recovery process, training for a step into a new artistic industry, or just for fun.
From Amanda Faber, Founder and CEO of Soldier’s Arts Academy: “SAA are delighted to partner with VOS to offer arts access to their arts programmes to veterans in the South of England. Thanks to the wonderful support from VOS we are able to expand our programmes and the number of veterans we reach. We are very proud to be associated with them.”
Overheard at VOS This Quarter
Here are some testimonials and comments we received from service users between April and June 2023 (in their own words!):
“Thanks for this, we had a wonderful time. Met some great people.” – IOW Social Hub Attendee
“A wonderful day spent with wonderful people. Thank you for the invite.” – Coronation Party at Pigsty Farm Attendee
“Very relaxing – so absorbing, a beautiful way to create art.” – Ebru Painting Session Attendee
“Great way to meet other Veterans, wives, family members, safe space to open up thoughts.” – New VOS Member
“Evening activities are fantastic, I feel so relaxed.” – Mid-Monthly Muster Attendee
“I can switch off and not worry about life.” – Social Hub Attendee
“VOS activities are always an enjoyable experience.” – Wellbeing Activity Attendee
“A wonderful noisy chat with great people, just a wonderful welcome to the new faces!” – Mid-Monthly Muster Attendee
“Great fun, company and banter!” – VOS Social Group Attendee
And one last quote from VOS CEO, Ian Millen:
Would you like to know more about any of the above? Have you joined us at an event yet in 2023? Reach out at the contact information below to share your thoughts.
VOS is here to support veterans from the UK Armed Forces service, the Merchant Navy, and their partners. If you know a veteran (from any time of service), please pass our details along. If you’re a veteran or partner and are thinking about getting in touch, we would love to hear from you. Call us on 02392 731 767, visit one of our drop-ins, or email email@example.com.