Blind Veterans UK have launched their National Creative Project which has been created 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 lots of different hobbies such as gardening and painting, from the comfort and safety of their own home. They are invited to virtual-get-togethers with other veterans who have similar interests over telephone or video call. The project consists of three integral parts which are Creative Activities, a Creative Book and Creative Hobby Circles.
Every month the veterans are encouraged to sign up to different activities in which they would like to take part. They are then sent kits and instructions with everything that they need for their chosen project. Louise Kirk-Partridge, Rehab Lead Art & Craft at Blind Veterans UK, says:
“We’re doing everything from woodwork to a tea towel design project. The activities are collaborative, and we’ve made the kits as straightforward as possible so all can get involved. For the tea towel design project, we created kits with a bird template, collage materials and a prepaid envelope. We encourage the veterans to design a bird which they can then send back to us and we’ll create a collage on a tea towel”.
Such collaborative activities would normally be available at the charity’s training and rehabilitation centre. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those art and craft services are no longer available. Louise 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”.
Another part of the charity’s National Creative Project is the Creative Book which will document member, staff and volunteers’ COVID-19 experiences. This will include creative writing, photography, art, craft, music and spoken word.
The third part of the project is the Creative Hobby Circles which involve the veterans taking part in virtual-get-togethers with others who are taking part in the same activities. Veterans connect either by telephone or video call to learn new tips and to show others what they have been working on. Nadia Wazera, part of Health and Wellbeing Team at Blind Veterans UK, says:
“One of our veterans said that they felt despondent but this call has really helped to cheer them up. From a staff perspective, it’s a delight and honour to bring our veterans together over the phone, throughout the pandemic and offer a holistic service”.
The project has allowed many veterans to come together and motivate each other to try new things. Blind veteran Sue Eyles, 60 and from Peacehaven in East Sussex, has been involved with the project since it started in September. She is part of many different creative groups such as photography, gardening and mosaics. She says:
“These projects have giving me something to look forward to – they’ve given me a purpose. Before this was set up, I could go days in lockdown without speaking to anyone but while I’m involved with all these projects, I’m able to interact with others and have a laugh – and of course the military banter very important!”.
“I started the woodwork group because I wanted to try something different. A veteran called Gary who I had already met at the centre is also part of the group and he’s been helping me a lot. We have video calls where he’ll teach me how to do things and how to use different equipment. I feel a lot more comfortable asking another blind person for help than I would a sighted person”.
Blind veteran Gary Stevenson, 54 and from Derby, says:
“It was through talking to Sue that I decided to give mosaics a try. I was giving her some tips because she was new to the craft and she encouraged me to start mosaics so I could decorate by woodwork. This project has allowed us to all help each other!”
The project has also encouraged Sue to be resourceful and creative with her crafts by reusing various objects that she no longer uses. She says:
“I’ve recently used the springs in a mattress to make a plant potholder for my garden! As people can’t go out now and buy the resources they might need, they should look around the house and come up with ways to create new things”.
“The National Creative Project has brought people from all over the country together. The groups are so diverse, and veterans of all age groups are getting involved. It’s lovely to be able to share stories, help each other and make new friends. We didn’t have anything like this before and the fact it’s all virtual makes it a lot easier. The creative project has given me motivation. I’m enjoying the projects I’m involved in and they’re inspiring me to try new things”.
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.
You can keep updated on Blind Veterans UK’s response to Covid-19 at blindveterans.org.uk/coronavirus where you can also find out more about supporting the charity to make this new service possible.