...received a grant towards travel costs. His wife had given birth to a premature baby who required specialist intensive care at a hospital some distance from their home. The soldier’s wife was unable to stay in hospital as the couple had another child requiring care. She was expressing milk and the soldier was driving on a daily basis to and from the hospital to deliver it. The trips were expensive and the soldier had used all his savings to cover the cost. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was able to assist the family by quickly awarding a grant to help with these costs. Without this help, the soldier would have struggled to continue to afford to visit his new baby as regularly, which would have been very upsetting for both his wife and himself when they were trying to bond with their new baby.
...received a grant towards children’s clothing. The gentleman had been injured during service but had been employed since leaving the Army. Unfortunately, due to having to have more operations, he was unable to continue working. This had an impact on the family’s financial situation and they were struggling to make ends meet. The children were in desperate need of new school uniforms which the veteran was unable to afford. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was able to assist by awarding a grant towards the cost of new uniforms. This help enabled the children to go to school in the same clothes as everyone else which stopped them being bullied by the other children for looking different.
...became ill and the family were sadly told that their child would not live for very long. The couple started to take him for regular medical appointments and treatment and were told that they would need to purchase some specialist equipment to make his life more comfortable. They couldn’t afford the amount that this would cost, so ABF the Soldiers’ Charity was able to act immediately to award a grant towards this. This meant that the couple could give their son a better quality of life.
...received a grant to buy items for his child. The gentleman was divorced with a young child whom he saw regularly. The child’s mother had died suddenly and he went to live with his father. He was unable to gain access to his ex-wife’s house so; the young child was left without any clothes or toys. The veteran had to give up his full time job to look after his child which meant that he no longer had an income, so couldn’t afford to buy what he needed. ABF The Soldiers’ Charity was able to step in immediately and award a grant to help the veteran clothe his child and provide some toys at an exceedingly distressing time for the family.
As the Royal Air Force's leading welfare charity, supporting the RAF family is at the heart and soul of what we do. Airplay was set up as the result of the RAF's request for assistance to help keep young people and children safely occupied on stations.
Children and young people from RAF families often find themselves facing their own unique challenges - living on remote and isolated RAF stations with little to keep them occupied or moving from one RAF station to another means they are constantly having to make friends and settle into new schools.
And it doesn't help when their Dad or Mum is deployed for long periods at a time. Airplay was created in response to this, delivering fun, challenging and structured programmes and activities, both during term time and throughout the school holidays.
Airplay Parks provide state-of-the art multi-use games areas and recreational facilities for children and young people.
- The RAF Benevolent Fund has either built or refurbished 73 Airplay Parks to date on or near RAF stations
- Twenty-five Airplay Childcare Centres have either been built or refurbished, providing much-needed and affordable childcare for RAF parents.
The RAF Benevolent Fund has also commissioned national charity 4Children to deliver a network of over 80 trained station youth workers on stations to provide a programme of safe and stimulating activities for young people.
Airplay is making a real difference to RAF children and their parents, as many of the children who have used the programme will testify:
"I moved to RAF Benson not too long ago, and found it hard to start again. I met some really nice guys that go to my school, and they invited me to the youth club so I went one Monday. I really enjoyed it there, the youth worker greeted me, and told me what there was to do, and my new friends helped me settle in. Now, I go every Monday and have met some more friends, and I have a laugh there. The youth workers are friendly and we can go to them if we have problems, it's a good start to the week."
Male aged 15 from RAF Benson
Working with RAF Community Support and 4Children, the RAF Benevolent Fund is extremely proud that Airplay has achieved such success on the ground and that the charity continues to be at the forefront of provision across the spectrum of support for all members of the RAF family – from the youngest child to the oldest veteran.
Gary (31) and his wife Dawn are parents to Luke and 11 year-old Jamie who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rare muscle wasting disease, which affects boys and will limit his life expectancy to around 25 years.
Jamie was diagnosed when he was three years old and has needed more and more support as the disease has progressed.
After 18 years serving in the RAF, Gary was forced to give up his career to become Jamie’s full time carer. When things got tight and the family could not afford to make the adaptations Jamie’s disease demanded, the RAF Benevolent Fund helped the family buy a bungalow for the family to live in and, this year, updated the garden to make it more accessible for Jamie’s wheelchair.
Jamie attends mainstream school and in September moved up to secondary school. The Fund has given him a £15,000 grant towards the cost of a new electric wheelchair that will make his life much easier. Jamie loves to play sports and signed for Norwich City FC recently to play power chair football.
Nursery-age children of Royal Navy families at HMS Collingwood celebrated the launch of a £1million refurbishment project in summer 2016 thanks to charitable funding from series of local and national organisations.
The ambitious programme of redevelopment works, which include an outdoor play area and garden, started in autumn and will be completed mid-2017 (subject to final funding).
The transformation of the well-loved, but tired, outdoor space has only been made possible thanks a grant of £50,000 from the principal charity of the Royal Navy, The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), and £23,000 from the Annington Trust.
Improvements to the garden, which is the first area (anticipated to be open in spring 2017) include all-new paving, artificial lawns, climbing frames, benches, landscaping, a play bark area, large sand pit, water play area and a play house.
The groundworks will begin following the construction of an all-new play building, which represents the project’s greatest expenditure.
Lieutenant Commander Caroline Thomas-Hoefsmit, Royal Netherlands Navy and WPSA Chairman said: “As a nursery community, and as parents who serve in – or work alongside – the Royal Navy, we see first-hand the importance of looking after our own.
“What makes Woodentots unique is the innate understanding of the particular needs of military personnel, particularly during deployments, which provides a huge boost to the ability to cope with the demands of being away from home safe in the knowledge that your child is receiving the best possible attention; this is the essence of Woodentots Nursery.”
At a Woodentots ‘graduation’ ceremony in 2016, 11 children expressed their gratitude to supporting charities by singing songs and presenting gifts to special guests, which included the Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock OBE and his wife Joanna, who was presented with flowers.
Reading Force is a fun family activity that brings Service families closer through sharing books. It is FREE for all Tri-Service families, Reservists, Cadets, Veterans and ex-Services personnel – spouses and partners, babies and pre-school children through to young adults, grandparents and other family members, can all get involved.
It’s like a book club for the whole family, choosing, reading and chatting about a book. Every Service child is given a special scrapbook to fill with thoughts about the book, photos and drawings. If a loved one is away, their chosen book can be read and chatted about via Skype and FaceTime.
One Army family – mum, dad and three daughters aged 8, 11, and 14 – had been taking part in Reading Force for a few years. In 2017, the family were reminded about Reading Force again through Facebook, decided to participate again, and submitted requests for free books and scrapbooks. Reading Force posted three scrapbooks and books: A Mariella Mystery: The Great Hair Scare by Kate Pankhurst, Scarlet Ibis by Gill Lewis, and Sophie Someone by Hayley Long, to them. They submitted their completed scrapbooks to Reading Force April competition. Dad was away while the family read their books and completed their scrapbooks, and they shared their books with him.
The children say....
‘My family sit and read every night before bed but my daddy stays on a different army camp in the week (I only see him at weekends) so I talk to him on the phone or send him special recorded messages on the cloudpet bear.’
‘I like reading together because we can share ideas and opinions. At home me and my sisters each read our own books. We tell our dad about our books through our cloud pet.’
‘We loved sitting down together in the evenings to read. Honey often has books from school but she much prefers a longer ‘proper’ read. She loved this book. She enjoyed telling us about all the crazy hair going ons and the purple fog. We also had a lot of fun doing the scrapbook together. Chatting about the book and discussing what to write. Thank you so much. There need to be some positives to being a military child – it can be so hard at times – your reading initiative is a lovely thing. Thanks again.’
Pre-schools, schools, community groups and welfare settings can offer Reading Force as part of their pastoral support. To find out more on the benefits to Service children and how to receive your resources pack, please register your interest at: https://www.readingforce.org.uk/organisations or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.