“Like most people during the national lockdowns, I have struggled to find something to keep myself occupied for the last year while off and on furlough. Many chefs are now offering a takeaway service or helping feed the NHS, school children and the needy.
I have done something slightly different and not catering related. Before I became a chef, I was a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces when I served in Hong Kong, Berlin (Germany) and Northern Ireland (that is showing my age) where I was injured out on a patrol forcing me to retire and become a chef. I was very proud to have served and felt proud again when I was given the chance to work again in a slightly different role with veterans.
I am now helping Combat Stress (set up to assist with veterans’ mental health) on a switchboard in a non-counsellor role, more of a listening ear. If someone has signs of PTSD or a problem I cannot help them with, head office is contacted and they take over. I am enjoying the humour and community feeling of belonging after so many years.
PTSD is a major illness and a trained counsellor is always available 24 hours a day. Ex-servicemen and women sometimes just need an ear, anything from providing contact numbers, advising with heating allowance, etc. or just listening as they have bad days and we are a sounding board. I do this sometimes three days a week and talk to up to six people for anything from five minutes to several hours. Some have even signed up to help in their local area which is very rewarding – it is not always doom and gloom – sometimes it can be a good laugh and a pick-me-up for me as well.
I also work with RE:ACT Disaster Response (another veterans’ association) that is helping out on the front line to fight Covid 19 with the NHS. You may have seen them at various sites, delivering medical and PPE equipment. You have to have a DBS Check to work in roles that have a sensitive nature. We help out with the jobs that are not so glamorous and a lot of people would not want to do but have to be done so we can free people up to do the more important roles for the greater good.
With RE:ACT I have helped clean, service and restock ambulances (there are three shifts to cover the 24 hours and we can cover any of these). This helps the crews to maybe get an extra cup of tea/coffee or a break, while we help take some of the load and keep the ambulances on the road. I have helped out at Covid 19 testing and vaccination centres doing anything from taking tests to making tea and helping with the stewardship.
With the weather at the moment I have even helped keep the helipad clear of snow for the air ambulance and here in the Highlands of Scotland it is in use more than you would think. We also have a tea or coffee ready for when the crew start their paperwork. We work in all weathers and I have had to clear over 26cm of snow in -15 degrees C (with wind chill) on-going for ten hours (anyone who knows me knows I hate the snow with a passion) but the job needed to be done and it was what I was needed to do.
I have also helped clean and sterilise ICU’s, wards and operating theatres, as well as being a porter around the hospitals which even includes working in the morgue and collecting bodies from the wards, hence the DBS checks. We work wherever we are needed and as veterans we understand that it is all about teamwork and the importance of the job getting done. We are very well organised with a “can do” mentality.
As a veteran I am happy and proud to help out two of the many veteran organisations and associations that are doing so much to help during the pandemic. Later in the year I would like to help raise money for both organisations, Combat Stress and RE:ACT, as they have both helped me get through the lockdown.