14 London Street, Andover, Hampshire, SP10 2PA
Veterans In Action started as an idea in early 2008 by three ex Royal Engineer friends, two of whom had been injured physically and one who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who wanted to raise funds for injured troops both physically and psychologically.
The idea they came up with was based around their own experiences in the Royal Engineers and was to take a group of veterans on an overland expedition driving from Headley Court to South Africa and back. The aim of the expedition was to carry out small tasks on the way, giving aid to locals with the aim being that they would 'help themselves by helping others'. This was based around the many tasks that the Royal Engineers do throughout the world and the great feeling and sense of achievement you get from completing the task.
This expedition was called Head 4 Africa and was taken to a leading charity as an idea. We had several meetings with them about this, although ultimately nothing happened with it so it was suggested to the team that they start their own charity, an idea which was never in their plans.
It was decided to move forward and apply for charity status under the name Veterans International Aid (VIA) which would help veterans through the expeditions they organised, based around the original ideas.
Charity status was granted in January 2009 and on receiving this it was down to Billy MacLeod to move things forward on his own.
"The idea for me was for me to get involved with being in a team once more as it was something I really missed from being in the services and was my reason for wanting to start the charity. I had worked in a fairly solitary job since leaving the army and this had impacted on my life and was the reason for me starting the charity. Once again I felt I was on my own which was not where I wanted to be, so the first thing to do was start building a team".
Billy MacLeod then contacted another ex Royal Engineer friend called Bob Elliott who was interested in helping out, well with some gentle persuasion.
With some mutual friends that they had served with, they attended the Army v Navy Rugby in 2009 and did some fundraising and talked to many serving and ex service personnel about the aims of the charity. They got a great response from the comments they received which inspired them to move forward.
During 2009, still mainly on his own, Billy MacLeod attended more events spreading the word about the charity's aims. He also attended some courses and trained as a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Time Line Therapy (TLT) and Hypnotherapy which helped with his own personal development and communication skills.
This took Veterans International Aid through until early 2010 where Billy MacLeod and Bob Elliott planned a long distance walk of 1200 miles from John o'Groats to Land's End, which would be manned by veterans who either suffered from PTSD or who found the transition to civilian life difficult.
Together with Bob Elliott as right hand man, they started the walk in May 2010 from the Army v Navy rugby match where the 10 man team of veterans who had been diagnosed with PTSD, plus support team were presented with the match ball from the Navy Captain. The ball became a focus for the team of veterans who carried it throughout the walk.
It was during this walk that the true value of being in the outdoors showed and that by doing such an expedition it could really change how individuals looked at themselves through personal achievement. Confidence levels were raised, which in turn helped raise self esteem and self belief.
After lots of study about the merits of using the Outdoors as a means to help people move forward, a plan was put together to do a series of 8 walks that would be called the Union Flag Walks, that when completed would form the Union Flag over mainland UK.
Once the plans were put together, Veterans International Aid set about organising the next walk, the second in the series which was completed during August 2010 and was a 600 mile walk from Land's End to Dover along the south coast of England. Again this was manned by a 10 man team plus support crew of veterans who suffered the effects of war and had been diagnosed with PTSD.
In September 2010 another walk was put together, the third in the series which was an 84 mile walk along Hadrian's Wall. This event was different in many respects, as veterans who had taken part on the previous walks were invited to become Team Leaders for the walk, as it was going to be carried out as a 3 team event over a weekend with each team walking 14 miles per day and done as a relay.
We invited members of the public and the charity Shaw Trust to take part on this walk and the veterans led them over the weekend along the route, which was a huge achievement for the individuals and for the charity.
After the walk finished, Veterans International Aid worked on the plans for the next walk and developing the team we now have. A new program was developed with the help of an ex Royal Tank Regiment contact called Paul Boag who has now become our Trainer for the courses he has developed for our Team Leaders.
This new program is called the ALIVE Program which is a three stage process that veterans who need our help can take part on.
It had been mentioned to us several times over the last year that people couldn't understand the name Veterans International Aid.
Through contacts at Cardiff University (University Veterans Institute), it was decided to put the name to a group of sociology students and ask them using the name alone what they believed the purpose of the charity was.
As a result of this it was decided to change the name of the charity from Veterans International Aid to Veterans In Action. This was completed with Companies House and the Charity Commission in March 2011.
We have been building our team during 2011 and now have three dedicated fundraising teams based in Scotland, the North West of England and the South of England. They have been busy raising funds which have helped the charity fund veterans through several courses and buy essential equipment for the events that VIA organise.
During 2010 our team and veterans covered a distance of 1900 miles with over 60 veterans taking part on the events. During the period from the last walk to the first walk of 2011, the team have been working tirelessly on raising funds and awareness of the now newly named Veterans In Action (VIA).
In May 2011 VIA started it's next in the sries of walks which was from Dover to Cape Wrath and then on to John O'Groats again taking in the Army v Navy rugby match on our way through London. The start of this walk went extremely well with good weather and as it progressed into Derbyshire then Yorkshire the weather became extremely bad.
By the time the team reached Scotland the weather was atrocious and we made a decision to end the walk after 800 miles at the end of Loch Lomond when winds got up to over 100mph and our tents were damaged beyond repair.
VIA was growing all the time including our outlook and through Bob Elliott's previous employment and experience he started attending many meetings in the North West and networking with other charities and organisations. This led to VIA members being invited to attend all of the Combat Stress Outreach Centres in the North West.
In early October 2011 VIA took some veterans from the Combat Stress Outreach Centres and memers of VIA Teams from all regions on a weekend walk along Hadrian's Wall. VIA Team Leaders led those taking part on the event which was a fantastic introduction to VIA for those who had joined us and they have now joined the VIA Team in the North West.
It has been decided to work towards VIA's first Veterans Community Centre which is planned for the North West Region and VIA are working with partners in the region of Rossendale and the Lancashire Council to make this a reality.
Through the participation from the veterans who have joined our fundraising teams, it has enabled us to purchase equipment and vehicles for the future events that the charity will organise. VIA have also begun to fund veterans through courses that will benefit them and also the future of the charity.