A blind veteran from Glamorgan 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. Lewis Evans, 85 and from Dinas Powys, has been involved with the Painting for Beginners and Improvers project. He says:
“I’ve always had an interest in art and craft and actually wanted to become an art teacher when I was younger. I submitted a painting for the charity’s Exhibition Fundraiser last year and it sold for £62! It was after this that I heard about the National Creative Project, so I decided to get involved”.
Lewis served in the Welsh Guards for 34 years and was discharged as a Major in 1987. He has been diagnosed with Wet Macular Degeneration and only has about 30% vision in his right eye. Fortunately, Lewis found Blind Veterans UK and he started to receive support from the charity in 2017. He says:
“Blind Veterans UK have given me a new life. I’ve been to the charity’s Llandudno centre many times and met other veterans. I’ve been part of the choir and I even sang for the other veterans during a coffee break once! I want to help the charity in any way I can”.
Lewis has created many different paintings with pastels and watercolours. He has also created ink and pencil drawings. He says:
“As part of the project, the charity sent me four different pictures of landscapes along with the equipment I’d need to recreate the picture. You can either copy those designs or create your own. I have created lots of different paintings with animals and some with winter themes. I have also painted a mountain scene of North Wales”.
Dave Bryant, Art and Craft Instructor at Blind Veterans UK currently leads the painting project. He says:
“The Painting for Beginners and Improvers 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. The NCP has allowed us to reconnect with members, such as Lewis, in a new and exciting way. The project has given members a new purpose and something to look forward to”.
The painting group have monthly calls so the veterans can check in with each other and see how each other are getting on. This has been a great support for those who would have otherwise felt isolated during the lockdown period. Lewis says:
“I am going to join my first call next week. It’ll be nice to be able to speak to others who are doing the painting project. Painting has been great for me during lockdown. I live on my own and I don’t like going out walking too much because of the virus. This has given me something to focus on”.
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”.
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.