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Blind Veterans UK

Cornwall blind veteran keeping connected with other blind veterans during lockdown thanks to charity’s National Creative Project

A blind veteran from Cornwall has been joining other veterans virtually to get involved with painting during the lockdown period thanks to Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women.

The National Creative Project has been created by the charity to keep veterans connected and to prevent them from feeling isolated during the lockdown period. The project focuses on creative activities and allows their veterans to get involved with different hobbies such as gardening and woodwork, from the comfort and safety of their own home. These activities would normally be available at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centres. Veterans are invited to virtual-get-togethers with other veterans who have similar interests over telephone or video call.

The different creative activities within the project are accessible for all abilities and the charity sends out kits and instructions with everything that the veterans need for their chosen project. Ron Debins, 83 and from Redruth, has been involved in the project since it was launched in September. He says:

“I was recently involved in a tea towel design project. I was sent a kit with what I needed, and the idea was to design and decorate a teacup which I then sent off to be included on a tea towel with other veterans’ creations. It was great to be part of something collaborative during lockdown”.

Ron served in the Army for seven years. He lost his sight due to Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) and started receiving support from Blind Veterans UK in 2015. He says:

“I’ve visited the Brighton centre eight times and I always spend a lot of time in the art and craft room painting! I’ve always had an interest in it and I particularly like painting with acrylics. When I was at the centre, I met an Art and Craft Instructor called Dave who sent me lots of painting equipment when I got home. I now have a painting studio down the bottom of my garden with a heater and a radio in there – perfect for the winter months!”

Ron has been part of the painting group who have monthly calls so the veterans can check in with each other and see how each other are getting on. Ron says:

“We don’t just talk about painting. We talk about everything from gardening to how our days have been. Painting has been a great outlet for me, especially during lockdown. It’s difficult to get motivated but the different projects such as the tea towel project, have given me something to focus on”.

Dave Bryant, Art and Craft Instructor at Blind Veterans UK, met Ron when he first visited the Brighton centre and currently leads a painting project as part of the National Creative Project. He says:

“I first met Ron when he visited the Brighton centre and I gave him some equipment when he left. The painting project has been designed for members of all abilities to enjoy art. Members may choose to use their own materials or receive materials and equipment as part of their pack.  We have offered acrylic and water colour so far and plan to include a pastels project soon. The National Creative Project has allowed us to reconnect with members, such as Ron, in a new and exciting way. The project has given members a new purpose and something to look forward to”.

As well as painting, Ron is going to start one of the gardening projects offered by the charity. The Sweet Pea Project will provide veterans with seeds and pots to grow sweet peas over the next couple of months. They will be encouraged to join group calls to share how their plants are doing.

Louise Kirk-Partridge, Rehab Lead Art & Craft at Blind Veterans UK, says:

“There is a lot of evidence that creative activities play an important role in improving health and well-being. We thought it was very important that we could continue to provide this virtually for our members especially during such a challenging time”. 

The project has not only encouraged many veterans to learn a new skill, but it has also been a great support for those who would have otherwise felt isolated during the lockdown period. Ron says: “It’s great to be involved in something. I am more than pleased with how the charity has supported me, I can’t thank them enough. Joining Blind Veterans UK is definitely one of the best things that has happened to me”.

To find out more about Blind Veterans UK’s National Creative Project, please visit: https://www.blindveterans.org.uk/ncp

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and thus being advised by the Government to self-isolate. The National Support Service will help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.

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