When life dealt Steven and his family a cruel blow, the RAF Benevolent Fund were there to help, giving them the time and the peace of mind to be able to spend quality time together.
Squadron Leader Steven Debling and his wife Kim were devastated when she was diagnosed with stage four skin cancer in 2018.
The couple met at RAF Shawbury in 2006 when Steven was training to become a Chinook helicopter pilot. They both went on to serve in Afghanistan, while Kim, an air traffic controller, also served in Iraq.
After marrying in 2012, Kim served until 2016 whereupon she left the RAF to set up her own design business. In 2016, when she was 24 weeks pregnant, Kim was diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a rare form of skin cancer. She had ultraviolet B treatment sessions until two weeks before their daughter Rose was born, and with an excellent prognosis, she happily fell pregnant again in 2017 with their son, Harvey.
However, shortly after discovering they were pregnant for a second time, Kim found a lump at the top of her leg. She was diagnosed with stage four cancer and sadly passed away in September 2018.
During Kim’s battle with cancer, the couple were spending hundreds of pounds each month on travel and childcare for the countless hospital visits. A friend of Steven’s suggested he approach the RAF Benevolent Fund for financial assistance to help cover some of the costs.
“The RAF Benevolent Fund stepped up when our family was in need of support. For us, they provided childcare, financial assistance to pay for the spiralling travel costs, and a gateway for counselling. These three things were an absolute lifeline and ensured that I could get out of bed and go and support my wife when she needed me most.”
The RAF Benevolent Fund provides a range of welfare services to help families like the Deblings and the whole of the RAF Family.
Some examples of the support available for the serving RAF community are listed below.
- Personnel can apply online for financial support up to the value of £750, and support greater than £750 can be accessed via your Chief Clerk or OC PMS.
- The Fund’s Advice and Advocacy service provides benefits advice and a legal helpline.
- Young people aged eight to 18 can attend Airplay youth clubs, while Ben Clubs provide fun activities for children aged five to seven. The Fund also provides childcare centres for children under five.
- The Thrive programme has been introduced for partners of serving personnel to help them overcome wellbeing and employment challenges.
- The Fund has also developed a series of family wellbeing workshops for the parents of school-age children.
- The Listening and Counselling service provides confidential emotional support to the whole RAF Family who may be affected by various mental wellbeing difficulties such as anxiety, depression, bereavement and stress. A specialist counselling service has also been introduced for children and young people under the age of 18.
- A relationship counselling service is available, providing support for RAF couples facing challenges.
- Serving members of the RAF and their partners can also access free memberships to Headspace, the mindfulness app.
For more information about the RAF Benevolent Fund’s support for serving personnel and their families, please visit rafbf.org/serving.