Anyone visiting North Yorkshire farm with Mark, Finchale’s ABF: The Soldiers’ Charity’s Project Manager could have been forgiven for thinking that they’d arrived on the set of a crime drama or sci-fi movie as can be seen from the images, though the reason for the coveralls was quite a different story.

Mark was visiting one of the many veterans he supports, ex Colour Sergeant Tom O’Donnell, who spent 20 years in the Scots Guards, as he was quite literally putting his students, Martyn in the blue coverall and Joe in the green cap, through their paces as trainee pesticide sprayers. This is quite a change from Tom’s previous role as a Platoon Sergeant where during an operational tour in 2010 he was responsible for 35 soldiers. Sadly, during this tour Tom was wounded in the leg to such an extent that he was medically discharged from the army.

Tom confirmed that the army took good care of him following his injury and he spent some time at the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court. Once discharged he also received some financial and practical support from another of Finchale’s supporters, Help for Heroes, due to a change in his health as a result of his injury.

However, despite all of the changes, Tom was determined to return to working outdoors as this was what suited him best. After he’d gained some experience as a grounds man at a local golf course/ country club Tom decided to investigate the avenues open to him and this was when he developed a very good working relationship with a company called Lowe Maintenance. So good was this that they offered to provide Tom with the training he needed in support of his qualifications. Unfortunately, despite such a generous offer, this still presented a significant barrier to Tom’s ambitions since being out of work meant that funds were tight and he was unable to fund his assessments which would lead to his becoming qualified.

All was not lost since, in the past, Lowe Maintenance had been able to support other Finchale Veterans with taster sessions in countryside activities and Phil from Lowe Maintenance remembered the excellent work Finchale did in supporting veterans and, understanding Tom’s predicament, suggested that Tom gave us a ring. He did and an appointment was made to visit Tom at his home. Tom takes up the story.

“The support I’ve had from Finchale, funded by ABF, has been invaluable, it’s been first class, it’s all been on a personal basis, ‘cause it started off with you coming to visit, so it wasn’t just all done over the phone, not speaking with anybody, with e-mails, it was actually a face to face conversation to kick it all off, so that gave me that little bit of peace of mind that someone was actually handling my case from the Finchale side of it…”  

An example of the case managed service Finchale provide led to Mark supporting Tom’s registration on Civvystreet, contacting them and explaining Tom’s situation regarding his funding, following this, Civvystreet agreed to support Tom with funding for his assessments. Mark then supported Tom throughout the application process and his funding was secured.

The results?

Well, Tom passed his assessments and has begun his new career as a self-employed instructor as you can see.

Mark asked how his students, Martyn, who runs his own landscape gardening business and employs two guys, and Joe, a veteran who served with 32 Regiment and saw active service, and who also works in the countryside, how they were finding the course and how they felt being taught by an ex platoon sergeant.

Martyn commented: “… the course is very good and I’m enjoying it… I’m self –employed and have two employees, so I’m looking to be able to take on more work, which means I can build the business bigger and then maybe eventually put them on the course as well… Tom’s a sound instructor; you can get on really well with him and have a bit of a laugh which takes the pressure off a little bit…”

Joe’s view: “Ha, ha, ha, yeah, he’s good, nah, he’s good, a typical sergeant, yeah, yeah, no he’s good he knows his stuff…

Joe added: ‘I’d just like to say that being with Tom this past week… it’s nice just to see lads that have put a lot of time into the army and haven’t really been looked after in some cases… it’s nice to see them actually being looked after for what they’ve done…’.

Importantly, Tom’s success highlights how one veteran supported by Finchale and ABF: The Soldiers’ Charity can affect more than just the life of the veteran. Mark is really happy that Tom was able to realise his work goal and wished Tom a long and prosperous career but he went on to say:

“Tom’s example typifies the work and results all the case managers at Finchale achieve. I’m particularly pleased that, as the ABF: The Soldiers’ Charity Project Manager, we can demonstrate that we share the same ethos as ABF in ‘using our money well and delivering on our promises’ too.

You also have to consider the wider implications of the support we provide, the families who benefit, in this case totalling twelve individuals; in Martyn’s case the two people he employs and their families too, so a minimum of fourteen people directly or indirectly affected by the support of one veteran, and this doesn’t include the impact on the local community, businesses and Jobcentres, etc., it’s win, win all the way!”

STOP PRESS: Both Martyn & Joe passed their assessments!