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Supporting service personnel through SSAFA’s mentoring scheme

Supporting the Armed Forces is one of the many things that excites me about my role as Human Resources Director (HRD) for Sodexo’s Government & Agencies business says Rachel Evans.

Rachel EvansOver the past few years I’ve had the privilege of working with the armed forces both in the UK and Cyprus, and becoming a SSAFA mentor is a way for me to continue my support for those who serve their country and their families too.

SSAFA is a fantastic charity, providing lifelong support to serving men and women, service leavers, veterans and their families.

When I worked in Cyprus, I was first introduced to SSAFA and had the pleasure of supporting their Young Achiever’s Award.  

It was an honour to be a part of such an inspiring event, celebrating young people from military families who have triumphed in the face of adversity.  This gave me first-hand insight into the work of SSAFA and the role that they play in the whole military community. Since then I’ve continued to work with SSAFA, supporting a range of initiatives both on a professional and personal level. 

Supporting service leavers is an important part of SSAFA’s work, and at Sodexo, we recognise the value that services leavers provide to our organisation.  We have made a commitment to employ 200 ex-services personnel and their families each year as part of our Public Service Pledge.

SSAFA’s transitional mentoring service helps to motivate, support, build resilience and empower service leavers to fulfil their potential in their new lives outside the military.  It’s been set up to help those who have recently left the forces and their families to understand and prosper during the transition into civilian life, providing reassurance and support at what could potentially be a daunting time.

As an employer, I really see the benefit of supporting the transition from a military career into a civilian one, and recognise the value that ex-services colleagues can bring to an organisation.  On a personal level, becoming a SSAFA mentor volunteer has given me an excellent opportunity to combine my passion for SSAFA with my own personal skills and experience and be able to give something back to service leavers in a practical and tangible way.

And the results speak for themselves – SSAFA recently undertook research showing that mentees taking part in the programme experienced a 31% increase in feelings of happiness with themselves, a 35% reduction in social isolation and more than 20% improvement in their financial and housing stability.

mentoring report

Taking part in the mentoring training has been a life-changing experience, both on a personal and professional level.  The training is fantastic - you meet other mentors, mentees and hear from the communities touched by this service, giving you an opportunity to look at the world with a different lens.  And whilst I’ve got skills I can use to give something back to the military community, the training refreshed these, given me some new skills and broadened my understanding of the service leaver and their family.

Mentoring is a fantastic way to support service leavers but it isn’t for everyone.  It’s not about advising or telling people what to do.  It’s about providing guidance and empowering people to make their own decisions, find their own solutions, and give them the confidence to make a difference by themselves, and part of the training will make you understand if it’s right for you.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and restrictions imposed to fight the virus has thankfully not halted the programme, but we have had to adapt. I have been able to support my mentee using digital communications and am looking forward to when we can meet face-to-face.

Service personnel have continued to be discharged from all three services and still require support with their transition to civilian life. In some cases more support is needed now more than ever due to the uncertainty of the future as the lockdown eases and the country adapts to a new normal.

SSAFA has adapted the mentoring programme to ensure it meets the continued demand and support needed by those who need it most across the UK and have gone the extra mile to ensure support is provided in line with lockdown restrictions. SSAFA’s mentoring team have also been working with its crisis team and have been able to access funds from SSAFA’s Emergency Response Fund for those in most need. 

For anyone looking at getting involved then I would definitely say to explore it and see if it’s right for you.  Time to help others is one of the most valuable things you can give, and if you have skills that will support someone though a transitional period then it’s a fantastic way to make a difference.

June 22, 2020

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