Feb 08

A remarkable hands on charity: Forces Support by Margaret Graham

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A remarkable hands on charity- Forces Support A

Margaret Graham was a Royal Naval service wife, back in the days of the Gulf War, and during that time was disturbed to learn of a girl on her service ‘patch’ whose husband was killed in the conflict. This young widow and mother of young children had to relinquish her service quarter in short order, and move into other accommodation when she was least emotionally and physically in a position to do so.

The council house she was offered was in shabby condition and the garden a jungle. It was the last thing this widow, and her children needed to face. If only Forces Support had been in existence then.

Frost Magazine decided to find out more about this inspiring charity and the work it does.

Forces Support is the only UK charity that provides a unique type of practical support to families bereaved throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

The charity was established in 2010 by Bill McCance. Bill had searched relentlessly for a charity to provide practical assistance for the wife of a serviceman killed in Afghanistan and was amazed that this type of support wasn’t available anywhere. Strongly believing that practical maintenance work around the home and garden was vital and should be readily available Bill’s only option was to set up Forces Support.

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Since then the charity has already carried out over 300 support projects for bereaved military families including for nearly 70 of the 453 families who lost a loved one in Afghanistan. Forces Support carries out projects for partners, children and the parents of the bereaved.

Initially the jobs were relatively small, decorating a room, putting up shelves or tidying the garden, jobs that the lost hero might have done themselves.  As word spread the projects have grown in size as the needs of the families became more apparent.

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Much of the charity’s work these days is carrying out garden improvements. A number of the families lose all interest in their garden and they become overgrown, neglected and a reminder to them of how they aren’t coping with their loss.

Forces Support team go in and makeover the garden for them, relaying patios, replacing broken fencing, laying turf and creating flower borders. The transformation can be quite spectacular. For many of the families Forces Support create a remembrance area with an arbour so that the families have a quiet special place in which they can sit and remember the person they have lost.

“We are so proud of the work we do for these families who have lost not just a member of their family but a hero too. The feedback we receive is so heart-warming and encourages us to keep going and growing. Many of the families report that the work we do goes way beyond just the practical nature of the work … but how it has significant benefits in helping them cope with their loss and aid their healing”, says CEO Bill McCance.

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A study carried out by eminent specialists in bereavement study recognised the significance of Forces Support role in this field and identified their work as fulfilling a need and created a new form of bereavement care called Restorative Coping Bereavement Care.

Already the charity has carried out work for the families of Lee Rigby, the young fusilier who was brutally murdered in broad daylight in London in 2013, for the parents of LCpl James Ashworth VCone of only 14 to receive the Victoria Cross since WW2 and for the family of Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011. His dog Theo died on the same day following a seizure.

Rob Fellows, Head of Major Gifts, commented “Readers can follow the progress of the projects on our active Forces Support Charity Facebook page, where we have 112,000 followers. Already we have aided many bereaved military families but there is still much for us to do and we always have a waiting list of families to help. We welcome donations, large or small, from anyone who’d like to support us helping more bereaved military families.”