Veterans and their families have enjoyed a craft day at the Help for Heroes Recovery Centre in Colchester; with the Colchester Woodturners Group kindly facilitating groups of beginners and seasoned woodturners.


Sandra Gosney, Activities Coordinator at the Recovery Centre, says "Our volunteers are a tremendous asset to us at Help for Heroes. Without the time, resources and patience they offer we simply wouldn't be able to offer these opportunities to our veterans and their families".


The craft day was arranged with the hope that new activities could be tried which would give veterans a taster of what to experience during the Recovery Centre’s Activity Tuesdays. All of the volunteers are members of clubs in the community and many veterans have become so enthused with what they've been taught that they've joined those clubs themselves. Some are even considering making it a business!


There were plenty of different activities on offer:

  • Plant pot / pebble painting
  • Dream catcher making
  • Scale modelling
  • Wood turning (pens, BBQ tools, necklaces, nutcrackers and much more!)
  • Wood crafting (maple leaves)

Sandra was really pleased with how the day turned out: “We had around 60 adults and children here today; all engaged and enjoying themselves. Our veterans found the craft day really good fun; spending the day with their children, teaching them new skills and learning a few themselves. They all went away with smiles on their faces. And the children with paint on their faces!".

"Not only are our veterans discovering new skills they didn't realise they had at our craft sessions but many are finding it a good way to enhance their well-being. The activities involve a degree of concentration and that is helping to reduce any anxieties or negative thoughts as they focus on the task in hand. We definitely see craft as an integral part of Activity Tuesdays as it facilitates informal peer to peer discussion".


The day was topped off with a group of veterans presenting a gift to the charity’s new Recovery Manager East, Julian North.


John Hughes , Bob Ward and Melvin White had crafted a beautiful chess set during Activity Tuesday sessions over the course of a year.


Volunteers from Colchester Woodturners Club give up their time for free in order to teach interested veterans how to turn wood effectively. They even bring along their own lathes and other equipment to ensure the best experience possible. The group have been running since 1996 and meet once a month at St Johns Church in Colchester where they often have demonstrations from well-known woodturners. It was a natural step for the group to work with Help for Heroes as they all have family connections to the military. For the past year they have been running weekly woodturning sessions at Colchester Recovery Centre.


Melvin said: "It’s been challenging at times but we've all really enjoyed making this chess set. Its larger than your average chess set so that those with prosthetic arms can grab the pieces without difficulty and if they’re knocked then they won’t fall over as easily. It’s nice to be able to give something back to those who have helped us”.


Julian added: "This isn't just about a chess set. It’s a legacy piece. Our veterans and volunteers have invested a lot of time in crafting this; it will be used for many years to come and represents recovery in action".


Help for Heroes would like to thank the Association of Woodturners of Great Britain for their grant towards the wood for the chess set and to Terry Smart of Chestnut Products for their donation of finishing products.