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Veterans International Aid - Veterans In Action

I am the founder of the charity Veterans International Aid (VIA) soon to change it's name to Veterans In Action charity no:1128026. VIA helps veterans who suffer from PTSD or who find it difficult to adjust to civilian life.

VIA was set up early in 2009 and initially the plan was to take a group of veterans on an overland expedition driving to South Africa and back and on the way do some aid work with the intent that it would make the veterans feel better about themselves, hence the name.

I have to admit that although I still believe it was a good idea it was cost restrictive and showed that although the intention was good it was also a bit naive.

I worked hard to get this off the ground and took it to H4H to see if they would back it with no luck. I then had a rethink and decided to do more in the UK and put together a plan to do a series of 8 long distance walks throughout the UK called the Union Flag Walks.

This was a series of 8 walks that when completed would form the Union Flag over the British mainland. The purpose of the walks was to take those who suffer from PTSD or find it hard to adjust to civilian life and put them into a therpeutical environment to help rebuild their confidence which in turn would raise their self esteem.

We did the first in the series of walks in May 2010 which was from John o'Groats to Land's End, a walk of 1200 miles over fantastic terrain and we had 10 veterans plus support team take part and I saw real changes in them as the walk progressed as they formed into a team and helped each other out. In many ways this was beyond our expectations and we started to put the plans together for our next event.

Before our next walk we tasked two of the veterans who had taken part on the first walk with putting together a challenge for themselves which was the National 3 Peaks Challenge which they planned and VIA ran for them in July 2010. This again was fantastic for their self esteem and confidence.

Our second walk took place in August 2010 where we walked 600 miles from Land's End to Dover along the south coast of the UK and again we had 10 veterans plus support team. This was another succesful walk with stunning views and terrain and extremely tough walking. and the team completed it in 10 days.

September was the date for our third walk which was along Hadrian's Wall on an 84 mile weekend event where this time those who had been on our previous walks became team leaders for 3 groups of some new veterans plus staff from the charity Shaw Trust. The team leaders really excelled during this walk and their confidence was now at a real high.

At the same time as this walk was taking place myself and another of the veterans we have helped over the year joined an expedition which was being run by Falklands veteran Robert Lawrence MC and his organisation Global Adventure Plus (GAP). This expedition was to drive to the highest point in the Himalayas in off road vehicles and motorbikes and we reached a height of over 16,000 feet with veterans who had taken part in all conflicts in the last 30 years.

This was a fantastic experience at the top of the world and fantastic for confidence and self esteem.

This was the end for our events for the year and time to do the planning for the next year ahead plus putting together our fundraising teams made up from the veterans we help. The purpose of our fundraising teams is not just to collect funds but to reintroduce those who suffer into a crowded and social environment within a team they trust and to make them comfortable in this environment.

The funds raised are used to fund those that take part through courses of their choice and interest that will help them with future employment and also to help rebuild their confidence and self esteem.

What VIA do is provide a platform for the veterans to make the changes for themselves, whether that be for them to then go on to treatment or if they have previously been through treatment to go on to train in course which could result in full time employment.

The emphasis and the ethos behind what we do is that each veteran has to work hard and the more work they put in the more they will get from what VIA does. This is all done to make them feel good about themselves and not to just get a handout. Every course they do and complete will be because they have worked hard to achieve.

Through these fundraising teams they form bonds and trust which is something they in many cases have lost because of their illness. It is all about adventure therapy and experiential learning.

We have so far started funding the first guys through some courses and we also have 4 guys who will be starting a University degree later this year and some of these guys had locked themselves away from society before our first walk last year.

VIA is no miracle 'cure' and we do not do any therapy. As an ex Royal Engineer it is based around hard work within a team. I have a fantastic team made up of other Sappers as they are my own contacts and network although we have other Corps and Regiments joining our teams.

Everything we do is about hard work, teamwork, laughter and fantastic exciting events. We see the best the UK has to offer and will cover almost every part of the country during our walks over the next 3 years.

Our next walk starts on May the 5th and is a 1400 mile walk from Dover to Cape Wrath in the North West of Scotland and then across the top of Scotland to John o'Groats. This is walks number 4 and 5 in the series. In this walk we will have a 12 man team plus support crew and plan to do the walk in 25 days. It's a tough challenge and our toughest to date and we will be adding some new elements to this walk.

We have already put some veterans who are taking part and have joined our fundraising teams through Navigation Courses and they will be teaching map reading and GPS during the walk so that by the end each person taking part should have a great knowledge in most terrains.

We also have an ex RSM from the RE's who will be teaching other skills such as knots and lashings and fire lighting and this will be used in Scotland where we will do some wild camping.

On our 5 scheduled rest days we will be funding the guys on exciting events such as the Army/Navy Rugby to going on fast RIB's in the open sea off Scotland.

As with any therapy or treatment everyone is an individual and what works for one may not work for another. This is true with what VIA do also. There are no miracle 'cures' all we can do is give options that will help some and hopefully give guidance to others.

This is my first time with anything to do with a charity. I never set out to start one as all I wanted to do was raise funds to help veterans but sometimes situations develop which push you in a certain direction which is what happened with me.

I don't have all the answers and we never will and I believe it is important to know what you 'can' do and even more important to know what you'can't'.

My experience over the last two years is that all the military charities are fighting against each other for the same funds and each in isolation have great intent. In my opinion we need to start working 'with' each other and 'not' against each other which I feel is the case right now.

I know this has been a bit long winded and I hope you stuck with it to the end. If you want to know more about what we do then please contact me @ or look at our website Veterans International Aid - Latest VIA News

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