Flower Power

Yvette Beer, a vet­eran of the Army Royal Lo­gis­tics Corps, served in the First Gulf War and in Bos­nia be­fore be­ing med­i­cally dis­charged in 1997. Then her life changed…

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The work of The Poppy Fac­tory

Iwas on the Gulf War Syn­drome pro­gramme, for Gulf veter­ans who ex­pe­ri­enced a range of symp­toms post-war, such as chronic fa­tigue and nerve pain,” ex­plains Yvette.

“Then while I was out run­ning one day, I had a stroke, a mas­sive in­farc­tion and bleed to the brain. I had been train­ing to get into the po­lice force but sud­denly, ev­ery­thing changed. I was left with long term health prob­lems, in­clud­ing a neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tion called dys­to­nia which causes un­con­trol­lable mus­cle spasms down my left side.

“It is now con­trolled with reg­u­lar treat­ment, with­out which I just don’t think I would be func­tion­ing at all.

“Back then, aged 29, my life went on hold. I used to live for the day, I hadn’t re­ally planned for the fu­ture and cer­tainly not the one now fac­ing me. I’d lost ev­ery­thing, my trade and my skills – it all came as a real shock.

“By the time I turned to the Bri­tish Legion for sup­port I was also strug­gling fi­nan­cially as I had been a sin­gle mum since 2004. My daugh­ter had been born two months pre­ma­turely and is pro­foundly deaf. She had also con­tracted menin­gi­tis when she was around one year old.

“The Legion sup­ported me for sev­eral years and I be­gan vol­un­teer­ing at my lo­cal Ply­mouth branch too, which has a drop-in sup­port fa­cil­ity for veter­ans.

“That re­ally brough ht home to me the scale of the strug­gle go­ing on for ex-ser­vice per­son­nel re­turn­ing to civvy street. It can be a real cul­ture shock and some­times it is just too much for some peo­ple to deal with.

“Thank­fully or­gan­i­sa­tions such as The Poppy Fac­tory can helpelp with find­ing mean­ing­ful work and as an in­jured vet­eran, I re­cently turned to them as I qual­i­fied for their sup­port.

“My daugh­ter is now a young adult and has gained her in­de­pen­dence so my car­ing du­ties have come to an end. I am now ready to get out there and find some rou­tine and struc­ture in my life and get back into the job mar­ket.”

There are an es­ti­mated 20,000 wounded, in­jured or sick veter­ans of work­ing age in the UK who are strug­gling to get back into em­ploy­ment af­ter leav­ing the Armed Forces.

In­di­vid­u­als might strug­gle with ad­di­tional com­pli­cat­ing is­sues such as Post Trau­matic Stress Dis­or­der or de­pres­sion, al­co­hol or sub­stance abuse, home­less­ness or break­downs in their fam­ily struc­ture.

In ad­di­tion to pro­duc­ing mil­lions of Re­mem­brance prod­ucts, The Poppy Fac­tory in Sur­rey is the hub of the highly suc­cess­ful Get­ting You Back to Work pro­gramme, which pro­vides per­son­alised

Once I get a foot in the door some­where they’ll see the value of me as a per­son

sup­port across Eng­land and Wales to as­sist ex-Forces men and women with phys­i­cal or men­tal health chal­lenges to re­turn to mean­ing­ful work and ful­fill­ing ca­reers.

Veter­ans work on a one-to-one ba­sis with re­gional em­ploy­a­bil­ity con­sul­tants, who match the skills and needs of the vet­eran to mean­ing­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties in their lo­cal job mar­ket. The sup­port in­cludes in­ter­view coach­ing, ca­reer plan­ning and help with the vet­eran’s CV and job ap­pli­ca­tions.

“My con­sul­tant Far­rah is like my guardian an­gel,” says Yvette. “She has al­ways been there for me, sup­port­ing me through any emo­tional dif­fi­cul­ties and rocky sit­u­a­tions. She knows my back­ground and un­der­stands my ca­pa­bil­i­ties and is help­ing me to look for op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“The jobs mar­ket is so daunt­ing, hav­ing some­body else look­ing out for you and help­ing you to develop the right tools is re­ally nice. I so value hav­ing her in my life.

“I am hop­ing to move from part-time self-em­ploy­ment to a full-time role, ideally put­ting my driv­ing skills to good use. I en­joy be­ing out on the road and deal­ing with peo­ple. With­out the net­work of help and en­cour­age­ment from The Poppy Fac­tory I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have pur­sued this plan, but I have a ‘can do’ ap­proach and I will keep go­ing.

“I have had lots of chal­lenges to deal with – I felt like I was on the scrap heap when the army dis­charged me – but my daugh­ter has even more chal­lenges in her life and I am humbled and in­spired by what she achieves.

“Once I get my foot in the door some­where they will see the value of me as a per­son. I know the right job will hap­pen and, with The Poppy Fac­tory byy myy side, I am readyy for it!”

Far­rah and Yvette ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties Mak­ing pop­pies can be the first step to­wards re­cov­ery

Yvette dur­ing her time in the Army

Yvette has a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude

Yvette meets the Duchess of Corn­wall

Camilla adds the 1,000th mes­sage to veter­ans

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