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Putting veterans at ease

26th October 2020

Claire Wright, Co-founder & Director, Trafford Veterans

It was lived experience that motivated Claire Wright and Chris Squires to start Trafford Veterans.

Both veterans – Royal Navy and King’s Regiment respectively – the Stretford-based couple found themselves needing support five years ago, but struggled to find help.

Undaunted, the two decided to set up their own peer support group for ex-Armed Forces & Emergency Service personnel in Manchester in 2015 – Trafford Veterans – providing the camaraderie that so many miss, whilst guiding people to mental health, housing and employment organisations

Beginning with a veterans’ breakfast club, the community-based group went from 30 to 117 joining them for meals, with World War Two veterans and young cadets sitting side by side.

The veterans’ organisation for the borough of Trafford – which became a Community Interest Company last July – is now run by 27 volunteers and offers model-making and craft sessions, a food share, minibus trips, outreach work and has an allotment and walking football team.

But, like many social hubs, it was forced to adapt as soon as lockdown came into effect. Since then, the group has made their activities Covid-compliant, set up a phone tree and been busy delivering fresh food (enough milk to fill eight bathtubs and 141 stone of bread) and donations to people that were isolating, as well as games and reading materials to keep up morale.

“We were just trying to give people a purpose and make them feel connected,” says Claire. “It’s been difficult for us all, but we’ve found that the welfare checks have been really useful because it’s a way of making sure that everybody is okay and keeping an eye on their mental health.”

“It does fill me with pride what we’ve done, but because I’m in the thick of it, sometimes I can’t see. Lockdown has certainly made us more determined – it felt like our duty to go out and help others.”

Supported by local businesses and charities such as the Veterans’ Foundation, the company is just one of the many fantastic causes who receive a total of £30m of support from The National Lottery each week.

Beyond the funding, Claire was particularly moved by the Lottery’s recent decision to build a commemorative bench for their work: “You don’t know how much that means to me and all the volunteers. Remembrance is a big thing for us because we’re veterans. It will be lovely to remember lost loved ones. To us, it will be somewhere we can go and reflect.

“We just take each day in our stride and to be where we are after five years, who would have thought it? There’s a saying in the military – ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’ and we apply it to everything, to be honest. There’s always a way, no matter what gets thrown at you. Whatever the future – we’ll adapt.”