Our Founding Director, Rupert Longsdon, spent last week in Klosters supporting injured veterans no longer in active duty rebuild their lives and look to the future with the support of former veterans, medical professionals and passionate volunteers. Rupert tells us a little about Skiing with Heroes Week 2016, and the difference the charity makes to veterans and volunteers alike.
1. How did you get involved with Skiing with Heroes?
"I have been involved with Skiing with Heroes since its first Ski Week in 2013 via Gilly Norton, owner of the lovely Chalet Bear in Klosters, for which we are an agent. Gilly was heavily involved in founding the project and keen to get as many people involved as possible, raising much-needed funds for a cause so close to her heart. That first year, within minutes of meeting the veterans on the first flight out to Zurich, I immediately realised I was involved in something truly amazing and have never looked back."
2. What was your highlight of the week?
"There is never one single highlight as there are so many truly humbling and inspirational moments. Seeing any of the beginners heading up onto the main lift for the first time, to the transformation of one of the veterans who at the beginning of the week could barely be in the room with so many due to the effects of PTSD, to then addressing a room of 180 people with a moving thank you speech on the final night, just 5 days later."
3. Why is Klosters such a good resort to host this event?
"Klosters is a small resort with a very close-knit community who live there for most of the year. Between them, they have the contacts to coordinate and get the whole resort behind the week to offer support. From the owners of the mountain restaurants, ski lift operators, and ski instructors: everyone is involved in the event and goes out of their way to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. Plus being less crowded and less commercial than some other Alpine resorts, the atmosphere is more intimate and you are not a slave to the lengthy queues at the lift stations."
4. Tell us about some of the people you get to meet through Skiing with Heroes.
"The week is made up of 26 veterans, (22 new, 4 returning as veteran support), 20 ski and social buddies (these are all people who have given up their week’s work and raised a minimum amount to come and support the veterans, whether it be on the slopes or in the evenings). Volunteers – of which there are about 20, including the full Medic Team this year consisting of a psychiatrist, osteopath, 2 physios, a cranio- sacral therapist, and a GP, all offering free treatment to veterans and buddies during the week. Overall Skiing with Heroes produces a huge cross section from all over the UK, and this year 2 from Canada, as we are trying to extend the program out there."
5. How can we help/get involved?
"With the ski week over, now the work in some ways really starts. The skiing is hopefully just a very enjoyable hook to really get to know and meet the veterans and offer them a chance to learn or improve on their skiing while having an enjoyable holiday. All of the veterans we take are now back in the civilian world and struggling to find a meaningful occupation. They may not have a job, they may not like the job they’re in, or they may not know what they want to do with their life. The veterans are immediately allocated a mentor to help with all these aspects. The mentor is crucial in their road to getting them back into work. We are therefore always looking for new buddies for next year, mentors from across the country and jobs to offer our veterans. If you feel you have something to offer and would like to get involved, or would simply like to Donate, you can find more details and many more photos of Skiing with Heroes Week 2016 at their website."
Skiing with Heroes recently re-branded as Supporting Wounded Veterans – a name which more accurately reflects the goals of the charity.