Project Update – A Strong Voice For Veterans
Photos by John O’Byrne
As part of our ongoing project with the NI Veterans Commissioner – Danny Kinahan – and his team we recently met Liz Brown and her team from the NI Veterans’ Support Office (VSO). Both the Northern Ireland Veteran Commissioners Office (NIVCO) and the VSO work collaboratively for the representation and delivery support of services to veterans. The VSO are the lead support and signposting service linking individual veterans, veterans’ groups and their families to available supports.
The VSO supports a wide scope of services and supports across Northern Ireland. We recently visited three inspiring outreach programmes: Decorum NI, the Frontier Pipes and Drums, and Horses for People. Decorum NI supports and empowers those security forces, and their families, who served during the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the period of Op Banner from 1969 – 2007. At the time of our visit, they were conducting a Skills For Life Course with young adults from South Eastern Regional College. These students grew up after the Troubles; as part of a community peace building initiative the course helps veterans share their story by engaging with the students for the future. Taking a break from a rehearsal, Ricky McGaffin introduced us to veterans of The Frontier Pipes and Drums. This veterans’ band promotes good mental health and provides an environment where veterans can meet other veterans, gain skills and qualifications, and ultimately benefit from the comradeship that the band aims to build within its ranks. In a beautiful setting overlooking Strangford Lough, Horses for People run Equine Assisted Learning workshops focussed on building confidence, self-esteem, resilience and more harmonious relationships. Working closely with Inspire Wellbeing, Horses for People has had particularly good successes with veterans suffering from mental health problems through equine therapy.
Each of these programmes help support veterans in their own unique way. Our aim is to use the content we are developing to help sign post veterans on the island of Ireland to supports such as those highlighted here.
We would like to thank David Crabbe and Mitch Bresland – Decorum NI; Ricky McGaffin – Frontier Pipes and Drums; June Burgess – Horses for People; and Michael Donaldson – Inspire Wellbeing, for introducing us to their amazing programmes.
With kind support from The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, the NI Veterans Commissioner’s Office and the NI Veterans’ Support Office.