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County Durham blind veteran teaching others woodturning during lockdown thanks to charity’s National Creative Project

A blind veteran from County Durham has been joining other veterans virtually to get involved with woodturning 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 painting, from the comfort and safety of their own home. These activities would normally be available at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centres in Brighton and Llandudno. Veterans are invited to virtual-get-togethers with other veterans who have similar interests over telephone or video call.

Bill Mooney, 78 and from Stanley, has been involved in the project since it was launched in September. He says:

“I have been woodturning since 1959! I’m a joiner by trade and I was introduced to woodturning during my apprenticeship. During lockdown, I was asked to help the woodturning group get off the ground. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the veterans smile when they have made something new.”

Bill, who served in the Royal Artillery for five years, has been supported by the charity since 2010. Bill says:

“I found out about Blind Veterans UK through the social services. I had my introduction week at the Brighton centre. I remember being told during that week that there’s no such thing as can’t and that it’s important to focus on what you can do.”

Bill stopped woodturning for 14 months when he first lost his sight. However, he attended the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno for a woodturning week and started to take up the craft again. He says:

“I struggled to continue with woodturning because I couldn’t measure things anymore for example. You learn ways to adapt though and it’s great to be able to pass those skills now onto others. It’s a great form of escapism, especially in lockdown. While you’re creating something new you can just focus on that and not have to think about anything else. I have made all sorts from bowls to apples!”.

During his time at the charity, Bill has created pens for Blind Veterans UK Patron, HRH The Countess of Wessex as well as HRH The Earl of Wessex and their children. He also made a bowl for the centenary of Blind Veterans UK. Bill says:

“The charity has given me opportunities that I am very grateful for. I am where I am because of the staff, other veterans and the volunteers at the charity. It’s because of the help I received. Woodturning allows you to express yourself. The charity has given me a few pieces of equipment for my workshop which has been great”.

Bill has been making pens to fundraise for the charity and he has received pen kits and ready-made pens from all over the world in order to help with his fundraising. He says: “I’ve received donations from as far away as Australia and New Zealand. My wife Evelyn has also made cards which have been sold with all proceeds going to the charity. I am so grateful for everyone’s generosity!”

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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