Injured servicemen and women are being given the opportunity to re-build their lives, gain qualifications and learn new skills by transforming and restoring historic canals.
The Trust and Help for Heroes have come together to deliver an ambitious canal restoration and career recovery programme for wounded, injured or sick servicemen, women and veterans.
Veterans from across the country will join the Heritage Heroes project and work alongside our engineers, heritage advisors and volunteers from Pocklington Canal Amenity Society to resurrect part of the Pocklington Canal. The 18-month project will also see new volunteers recruited from nearby local communities in East Riding, Yorkshire.
The project, made possible by £500,000 funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, aims to bring pride and purpose back to our heroic veterans while restoring canals, some of which have been left neglected for decades.
Veterans returning from service are highly-skilled and capable individuals, with a great deal to contribute to society. Too often however they are ill-prepared for the transition back into the civilian world. The Heritage Heroes project will equip the wounded, injured or sick heroes with City & Guilds qualifications in construction, health and safety, horticulture and land-based management which can be used to help them identify a new, purposeful career.
Help for Heroes veteran David Simpson, 57, of Derby is a former Lance Corporal who served in the Falklands and Northern Ireland. He suffers from anxiety and anger issues and hopes the project will help him discover his former self.
"The Falklands are where my main problems started. But it wasn’t until 28 years later that I finally sought help for them," father-of-four David explained.
"Whilst I was stationed in Fitzroy, I witnessed something horrible – a needless, senseless death. I haven’t been the same man since."
David, who left the Army in 1988, was later diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and experiences severe anxiety and anger issues on a regular basis. He has struggled to hold down a job and has had more than 40 since he was discharged from the Army.
He said: "I have lived like a hermit for years now and that’s why I’m doing the Heritage Heroes project; I want a better life for myself. I’ve had 28 years of total stress and now I want to look forward.
"I know there is life after PTSD, it’s not all doom and gloom. This course will give me more confidence and a better outlook on life."
The second phase of the project is taking place in Yorkshire. Working in partnership with the Pocklington Canal Amenity Society the veterans are helping to restore a Grade 2 Listed lock at Thornton. This involves repairing the historic brickwork to the lock chamber, replacing the timber lock gates and works to the lock floor. Currently only half of the canal is navigable but these works will be essential in completing the project and restoring the area which is a site of special scientific interest. Alongside the restoration works the veterans will be instrumental in creating a new nature trail, pond and refreshing a visitor centre.
Jason Leach, Enterprise and Restoration Team Manager for the Trust, said: "Heritage Heroes is such an exciting project for us. It gives the Canal & River Trust the opportunity to work with Help for Heroes to transform waterways as well as helping to rebuild our wounded heroes’ lives."