Leigh Veterans Hub is soon to run from the Spinners Mill in Leigh, Greater Manchester. The Veterans Hub will be inclusive to Leigh and be the inspiration to create change with local Armed Forces Veterans alongside the Re-Engage programme.
The Re-Engage programme was inspired by Major Chris Chudleigh who was born and raised in Manchester, and after leaving school, he joined The Kings Regiment. Chris was stationed at the 1st Battalion in Berlin, before enrolling in the Standard Military Course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMA) in 1990. Rugby and the draw of Hong Kong led him to leave the Kingos and join the Royal Regiment of Wales (which his uncle had served in).
With half his family heritage in West Wales, Chris has always been confused about his identity! But he knows, there are more than one or two similarities between the North West and Wales.
Armed Forces life and the School of Hard Knocks…
Fast forwarding 30 years, Chris was a part of the British Army. For 22 of those years, he played rugby, and often lent a hand to those who had something to give, but just needed a bit of guidance to get them on the right path.
Chris did this because he has a talent for connecting with people and leading them. This ability led him on to the Sky Sports TV show “The School of Hard Knocks” and the creation of charity of the same name. However, Chris’s strength is rooted in the Manchester community and its commitment to egalitarian values, which remain strong today.
The School of Hard Knocks enabled Chris to visit prisons, and engage with antisocial groups of young individuals as part of the Veterans Treatment Programme in the USA, and work in schools. This experience learned from the School of Hard Knocks influenced the formation of the Re-Engage programme.
Applying the empathy and worldly knowledge of military veterans, Re-Engage seeks to assist young people in unlocking their potential. Honed by years of leading young soldiers, most of whom grew up in the same environment as the young people that Re-Engage intend to help.
Armed Forces excel at creating team leadership.
The British Army is not without its flaws. However, it excels at forming teams and creating excellent team leaders. We aim to bring this leadership to schools by connecting veterans with students within the ReEngage programme.
Chris also understands the importance of diversity. He was especially influential in the development of armed forces rugby, where the Armed Forces players from the Commonwealth nations added another layer to the game that was already played by those from the UK. This diversity, and the integration of talents is what the union of Re-Engage, the Leigh Veterans Hub and the Verve family is all about.
Together, we are stronger, and the issues the UK society faces are so intricate, they will never be solved with just one person’s action. Also, who we are, and our character is determined by our interactions with others.
Therefore, to bring about reform, we need to examine the problems and find unified solutions utilising the diverse skills we have as we interact as a team. Only then will positive progress happen and create effective, and much-needed, change.
To create change, we embrace diversity.
It was a mutual Armed Forces Veteran friend of ours, Al Boyle, who connected Chris and me. Al runs the Warrington Armed Forces Day, Tom Sephton memorial trophy. Every year I’m at the Verve Recruitment CIC fostering tent, along with veterans, regiments and others with a shared passion for rugby. Al knows many of those in the Armed Forces are foster parents, and he knows the remarkable job they have done with the children they care for.
Chris hoped to use the ReEngage programme to draw on the knowledge of veterans and assist young people in Greater Manchester with mainstream education. He asked Al if he knew anyone who might help?
Al said yes, speak to Val; she’ll help you. Al passed on my number and sent me an email explaining what he’d done and why. Al endorsed Chris for me, and that was all I needed. If he was Al’s mate; I knew he would be a good man.
The underlying principle of how we met has remained. Al couldn’t help, but he knew someone who could and shared information. There was no personal or political gain. Al was lending a hand to someone in need. It was the right thing to do, and what we do at the Leigh Veterans Hub.
A year later, I changed Verve Recruitment CIC to Verve Community CIC.
The Verve community was strong initially, as was ReEngage. As we campaigned and developed ReEngage with shared connections, we built a solid social impact; our community grew stronger. We knew as self funded small businesses; we were vulnerable, but we met other people with shared ethos, they had the skills we lacked. Equally, we had skills they lacked, and as a result, the Verve Community grew…
Now, we have a home as we move into the Leigh Veterans Hub, Spinners Mill, Leigh, Greater Manchester alongside other community groups and charities. However, we wanted to create change in how we support veterans and young people, mainly in alternative educative provisions.
We never portray Veterans, or vulnerable groups in our communities, including young people in care or alternative education as victims in order to obtain grants and funding. To us, there’s too much of that. We know many organisations are funded as they promise the world and once more, they don’t deliver and let people down.
We are like Al, if we can’t help, we’ll find someone we know will help. We don’t have funding and therefore the nonsense of charities not speaking to each other for fear of having to share the funding doesn’t apply either.
The Leigh Veterans hub embrace technology to support those in need.
Chris and I knew the people we needed; staying one step ahead at the Leigh Veterans hub would be the key to our success. We sought a corporate business to deliver their technology, particularly data driven assistance, to the people who required it the most.
There is a need to build a digital CRM system to help veterans and vulnerable people keep and access their data, and control who sees it. Also, the CRM needed to be connected to vital support networks to access vital information to prevent vulnerability. We recognised the need, but the price was too high.
Our paths crossed with a man looking for us. He had the digital technology and the solution. However, he didn’t know what the problems were to build the solution. If he knew that and could get funding; he’d build it.
Technology such as this is not cheap and inaccessible to our sector. However, we are not afraid of standing up to the challenge. We know how this technology will make a difference to our Veterans and young people in need in the Leigh Veterans hub. He is Paul Sandlands from Safe Guarden CIC.
But for now, that’s another story…
This story, is Chris’s story and also, Chris and I don’t worry about asking for help. So if you’re able to make a donation to help us with the conversion of the Leigh Veterans hub, we would appreciate it. We have a challenge ahead; however, with the same determination that brought us here, we will make it.
Contact either Chris or myself on the form below if you can help us. The need for change has never been stronger. Also, the need to recognise the invaluable contributions our Armed Forces Veterans make within our communities has never been higher; especially in how they support, guide and lend a hand to our young people in our communities.
Together, we are a stronger community because of our Veterans and young people in Greater Manchester. And, if they fall, we lend a hand to get them back to where they belong; within the communities in which they are loved. Together, we are stronger.