RAF charity needs more volunteers to help veterans struggling to cope

A national charity is looking for more volunteers to support struggling members of the RAF community in Scotland.

Above, John and Tina Wren were helped by the association. Picture: Phil Greig

The Royal Air Forces Association (RAF Association) needs more befrienders and case workers to meet a growing demand for its services.

While volunteers are needed across Scotland, the greatest demand is in the Central Belt, including the Edinburgh and Glasgow areas, where many RAF veterans and their spouses have settled.

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Rory O’Connor, the charity’s director of welfare and policy, said beneficiaries’ needs ranged from help filling out forms for hardship grants to seeking a friend to talk to on a regular basis.

O’Connor said: “Sometimes we help people with more complex situations, so all our volunteers are fully trained to be able to offer or signpost the appropriate help.

“We have a real need to recruit more welfare volunteers in the Central Belt right now. I’d urge anyone in this area who would like to make a difference to members of the RAF family facing hardship or loneliness to contact us.”

There are about 240,000 veterans in Scotland. Whilst the majority make a smooth transition to civilian life and employment, a significant number suffer from homelessness and mental illness, the symptoms of which may not emerge for a number of years.

One of the charity’s volunteers, George Prentice, a retired RAF Corporal from Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders, used his case worker training to help expats John and Tina Wren from Malta after John had a heart attack while watching a game at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. It soon became apparent that John, an army retiree who was resuscitated at the scene, needed an urgent triple heart bypass. Prentice said: “That news would be scary enough for anyone, but it was made worse by the fact John’s diagnosis came while the couple were on a short visit to their native Scotland – a long way from their home in Malta.”

Having only been prepared to stay in Scotland for a few weeks, John and Tina, a former RAF Aircraftwoman, suddenly found themselves in need of local accommodation and financial support.

Tina’s service with the RAF meant she and John were eligible for association support, so the charity passed on the couple’s call for help to Prentice.

Prentice visited them in the hospital where John was being treated and enlisted support from the charity’s Malta and Edinburgh branches to help the couple relocate back to their native Scotland.

He also applied on their behalf for funding from other military charities.

Prentice, who subsequently received a British Empire Medal for his charity work over many years, helped the couple to find accommodation in Stirling, where Tina cared for her husband during his long recovery. Tina said: “Our lives were turned upside down that summer almost three years ago, but thanks to George and the RAF Association, we’re now back on track.”

The RAF Association has about 1,000 welfare volunteers from a range of backgrounds throughout the UK. While many are retired, some are working-aged, and usually give two or more hours a week. A military background is not necessary to volunteer. The RAF Association is a membership organisation and registered charity that has been providing welfare support to the RAF family for 90 years.

Information on volunteering can be found at
www.rafa.org.uk/volunteer/.