This is the first of what is hoped to be a semi regular slot, highlighting forces community, voluntary and charity groups. Holidays 4 Heroes is an informal group of people, including serving and retired personnel from all the UK Armed Forces and civilian supporters.
We try to assist serving and former military personnel and their families, in a variety of ways that might otherwise fall outside the remit of the better-known Forces Charities. We work together through an Internet web-site used, mainly but certainly not exclusively, by Army personnel (The ARmy Rumour SErvice or “Arrse” for short – the military have a highly sophisticated sense of humour!).
It all started in December 2007, when users of the “Arrse” website and chat-room were made aware of a former serviceman in some financial difficulty and in imminent risk of being evicted from his home. In the simplest of terms, the folks had a whip-round and sorted the problem – within 48 hours the guy and his family were saved from eviction, Christmas groceries and presents for the children were provided, and everyone felt really good.
You might ask at this point why the well-established Service Charities were unable to help. Well, of course they could. However, any assistance would probably have to come at the end of an assessment, by when it could be too late. The informal arrangement, and the speed of the internet, solved the problem faster than a First Class stamp!
Whilst basking in the warm glow of “Good Deed for Christmas”, it became clear that the case just resolved must have been just one of dozens. And so the network started networking, as various users of the website explored where other deserving cases might benefit from the rapid response of an internet community. At the same time, various anonymous members of the website community turned out to have some extremely useful talents, and contacts.
And things started happening very quickly!
In addition to helping those who have fallen on hard times, one of our colleagues who owns an apartment in Spain had the idea of providing a free holiday for the family of a severely wounded serviceman. The underlying thought was that this could provide a much-needed break from their usual routines of hospital appointments, whilst at the same time allowing the family some time together to come to terms with the injuries that had been suffered. Funds for the flights were collected via the web-site.
This aspect has constantly expanded ever since, with a growing network of apartment and villa owners donating free accommodation. In addition, some Regimental and Corps Welfare Associations have been able to provide financial assistance towards flight costs, and the team works closely with Unit Welfare Officers to identify suitable cases.
Holidays4Heroes is supported in its fund raising activities by the unique concept of Sgt Slingsby and a team of fellow uniformed teddy bears that travel the world, being photographed in interesting places and raising cash along the way.
Fitting in between ‘mates helping mates’ and the established service charities/agencies Holidays4Heroes and the Sgt Slingsby fund raising initiative exemplify all that is good about the UK Service Community, assisted by concerned and interested civilians. Its aims are modest but one can imagine the impact it has is considerable.
If you do anything today, visit the web sites, show your support and drop a few quid into the pot.