Martin Bell OBE has hosted a private talk for a group of 20 blind veterans with an interest in military history, providing some much-needed entertainment as this period of self-isolation continues.
Streamed on Microsoft Teams, the blind veterans from the North East with an average age of 83 were able to join the call via telephone.
Martin vividly described his time in National Service before moving onto his war reporting days in Vietnam, Bosnia and various other conflicts, ending with his memories as a Member of Parliament.
“Having reported extensively from the front line, I’ve seen first-hand the sacrifices that members of our armed forces make to keep us all safe. Blind Veterans UK are a fantastic organisation providing life-changing support to those who have served and lost their sight. It was an honour to work with them and regale some tales to blind veterans in the North East.”
77-year-old Bill Owen from Dronfield was one of the blind veterans on the call. He says:
“Martin’s talk was absolutely fabulous. It was amazing to hear stories from the conflicts he’s reported from and he was extremely forthright when responding to the questions we had. I could have listened to him for much longer. It was such a nice event to attend during this lockdown where we could all get together virtually and enjoy a brilliant talk in the comfort of our living rooms. Big thanks to Martin for giving up his time and providing such wonderful entertainment.”
The presentation with Martin Bell was just one of the many virtual activities that the charity now offers the veterans it supports. Blind Veterans UK launched ‘Operation Entertain’ last year to maintain the beneficiaries’ morale and prevent social isolation.
So far over 1,000 veterans have taken part in virtual social activities including online photography, woodwork, and art clubs. There are now 75 national groups of blind veterans and 102 local groups meeting regularly and supporting each other.
Blind Veterans UK has adapted its service to support its 5,000 beneficiaries, 90% of whom are over 70 and at an increased risk from Covid-19. The National Support Service has and will continue to help blind veterans through this period of social isolation.
Nicky Shaw, Blind Veterans UK Director of Operations said:
“Living in isolation, blind veterans need our help right now with daily tasks, such as the shopping, and constant emotional support through this difficult time. So we are temporarily changing our service and mobilising our staff to provide practical, essential support to help the most vulnerable.
“There is so much that we can and must do to support blind veterans to help them maintain physical and emotional wellbeing, and to feel safe, reassured and cared for during this crisis.”