William Powell Country

Fishing for Heroes


Article written by 16 August 2012

Who We Are

Fishing for Heroes (FFH) was established in 2009 and registered as a charity on 01 April 2010 ( charity No: 1135355) to provide fully funded fly fishing as therapy for veterans and serving soldiers, sailors and airmen of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces suffering from PTSD/Stress and other emotional problems due to active service.

Our Philosophy

Research (Rivers of Recovery Programme carried out by the Universities of Utah, South Maine and Salt Lake City VA) has identified that fly fishing as an effective therapy for PTSD, a 3 day course of instruction resulting in a 20% reduction in PTSD symptoms. Fly fishing helps sufferers to recover a sense of self worth and to emerge from the often chaotic, desperate and fragmentary lives they have suffered in the past. There is a technical side to fly fishing that is all absorbing, deciding on the type of fly (dry/wet/nymph/buzzer), to be used, where to fish (upstream/downstream), the actual casting technique not to mention the peaceful and tranquil surroundings. We have found that the beneficiaries who have gone through our programme experience real release and an increased sense of self-worth as a result of the fishing, helping to enable them to turn their lives around, contributing to society once again.

How We Help

Our aim is to promote recovery by:

• Providing fully funded fly fishing courses to teach a lifelong skill.

• Providing continued fishing sessions and ongoing support once the initial course has been completed to reinforce skills learnt and fostering a continued interest in the sport.

• Organising beneficiaries who have gone through the programme into regional self help groups to encourage social interaction.

• Running a mentoring scheme to ensure once beneficiaries have been through the programme they do not regress.

• Provide fly tying courses to help complement the fly fishing therapy and to occupy beneficiaries’ time during inclement weather.

Benefits Of The Therapy That The Charity Offers

We offer beneficiaries the following benefits:

• An opportunity to learn a lifelong skill. Potentially to develop into a career prospect through the UK Coaching Certificate, Game Angling Certificate and The Game Angling Instructors Association.

• Opportunities to share experiences with fellow veterans in the form of self help groups.

• A means of achieving better self-awareness and self-esteem.

• A reduced sense of isolation and enhanced confidence.

• A route to recovery and future wellbeing.

• A means of combating the stigma of mental illness in a positive way.

The Cost of Helping

The cost incurred will include

• Transportation:

Many of the beneficiaries we support have been in receipt of benefits and/or been homeless for a number of years. For beneficiaries on benefits we pay their transportation expenses to attend the residential elements of the programme up to a maximum of the equivalent of a second class rail ticket.

• Accommodation

The accommodations we use are family type bed and breakfast establishments. This gives us low cost and safe accommodation whilst putting the beneficiaries back into a family environment, for some possibly for the first time in many years.

• 4 day Fly fishing course

Each beneficiary receives a 1:1 tuition from a fully qualified instructor/assessor all of whom are very experienced in dealing with people who have behavioral challenges.

• Continued support and mentoring

This element is tailored to each individual as their needs will vary in response to the effects of the therapy on the individual beneficiary.

The cost of caring for the beneficiaries can vary and the help and support which we offer depends very much on each individual, however we have found over the last 2 years that the average cost to the charity is in the region of £1000 per annum, per person.

Case Study Soldier A

Soldier A, a veteran of the Falkland Islands conflict, believed he was fortunate enough to be invited back to the Falkland Islands Pilgrimage for the 20th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities. The trip affected him far more than he could ever of had imagined. The visit for him brought back the horrors of the conflict that he was sure he had laid to rest.

On his return, unable to cope and unsure of where to turn to for help he entered into a downward spiral of using alcohol and drugs as an escape. Inevitably he lost his job, his wife and the roof over his head. Finding himself on the streets becoming more and more dependent on alcohol and drugs he began to turn to violent acts in order to feed his habit. Eventually a domestic dispute resulted in Soldier A being given a custodial prison sentence. In prison he formed an inmates self help group and was beginning to put his life back on track.

On release from prison and establishing contact with another charity, Soldier A was told that they couldn’t help him as he had a criminal record! Soldier A met with a representative of Fishing for Heroes and was offered a place on one of our courses. Since taking part in the programme Soldier A has turned his life around, he now has a roof over his head, he is in a stable relationship, is not dependent on drink or drugs and he has now qualified as a neuro linguistic programmer, and is looking to pursue a career in this field. Soldier A is now actively involved with the charity as a volunteer.

Future Plans

In addition to maintaining our current programme of work, we also plan to develop the following in the forthcoming years:

• Expansion of our therapy programme to enable the charity to offer the free services that we provide to more beneficiaries in need of our help.

• Be able to reimburse our growing network of volunteers’ reasonable expenses, being unable to do so in the present economic climate place’s the charity at risk of losing the good will of our volunteers.

• Increasing our fundraising and campaigning work on behalf of our beneficiaries.

• Increase the therapy package to include extended fly tying courses. Another recognised therapy for the treatment of mental health illnesses.

Funding History

In recent years our funding has come from a range of sources, charity auction dinners, fishing competitions, small individual donations and fundraising stalls at game fair and county shows. We also earn a small amount from the sale of merchandise. Although attending game fairs and county shows have enabled the charity to raise much needed funds initially, this has not proven to be a cost effective fund raising strategy and often the cost of a stand at one of these events has outweighed the money raised in donations and the sale of merchandise.

We are not a mainstream cause and, even within the medical world, mental health is often described as the Cinderella service, if you combine that with the fact that we offer our services to veterans of military service this reduces the appeal for support to the charity further still, securing further core funding to maintain a viable organisation is one of our main challenges.

For more information visit http://www.fishingforheroes.com/

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