To create beautiful public and private landscapes, spaces and gardens to be enjoyed year after year.
In doing so, we intend to only recruit ex-service personnel who have served in the British Armed Forces.
We are committed to creating job opportunities for veterans who have fallen on hard times and now find themselves homeless.
Garden Troops will foster an environment that allows our employees to maximise their skill set and return to the workforce and society…
There is something fundamentally wrong with the system here in the UK. We have in excess of 1,500 armed forces charities with a collective worth of more than £3 billion, and yet there are more than 10,000 veterans living on the streets, while a further 20,000 are unemployed.
These startling numbers continue to grow, due in part to the large majority of personnel now leaving after serving fewer than four years – a complication which makes them ineligible for retraining, thereby forcing them to take low paid unskilled work.
I joined the army at 15 as a troubled tearaway with no real direction or qualifications, unable to conform to the routine of school. I went on to enjoy a career in the British Army spanning more than 20 years. Most of that time was spent within the special forces community. I continued to serve my country as a Security Specialist for the UK Commonwealth Office, the UN and US-AID, helping rebuild war-torn countries.
Upon my return to the UK, I began to reconnect with my brothers and sisters that I had served with and, as I did, I began to discover that almost all of them experience a decline in their mental health. It was an alarming realisation.
This had, in some cases, utterly devastated their lives, with most unable to hold down a 9-to-5 job and, even worse, resulted in them living on the streets. To see these once proud men and women, who had given everything for their country, now unable to even get food and a warm bed for the night was nothing short of heart breaking.
The main issue is simply this: Once you leave the military there is very little in the way of support to undo the traumas suffered while in the service of our country.
Speaking to the leading armed forces charities, I discovered that government red tape means it takes a minimum of three months just to check a veteran’s service records. Even after this needless wait you still may not qualify for help.
To give you some context, as a Platoon Commander I was expected to have around 250 troops and attached service personnel ready to deploy to hostile environments around the world within 24 hours. Yes, 24 hours. This is something that is expected of soldiers, and yet it takes at least three months just to check someone’s records?
Data collated by Victoria Elms for Sky News has revealed further surprising statistics. In the five years following the end of Afghan operations, the income of military charities has risen by 31 per cent. That gives the 1,519 registered military charities in the UK a combined worth of £3.1 billion.
It’s a huge amount of money. Sadly, some of these charities are understood to be giving as little as three per cent of the donations they receive to the actual causes they claim to support.
CASE STUDY: DARREN GREENFIELD
Darren Greenfield was a 47-year-old ex-serviceman who died a week before Christmas while living on the streets.
Darren had proudly served with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, from 1986 to 1990. He then joined the Royal Army Pay Corps from 1990 to 1992 and then the Adjutant General's Corps from 1992 to 1998. But, after leaving the forces, he fell on hard times.
“Darren could be found at Edinburgh train station, in his trademark woolly hats, with a cardboard sign that read ‘God bless’ as he politely asking for help.”
He was offered a bed in a hostel and people will take the view that he refused it and didn’t want help, but having a comfortable place to sleep is just part of the problem. "I'm just not ready," he would say.
This isn't because he simply wanted to live on the streets. Darren was suffering with mental health issues brought on during his time in the Army. This is something I have seen time and time again as a Trauma Risk Management (TRIM) practitioner in the military.
PROBLEMS FOR SERVICE LEAVERS AND VETERANS
Removed from a support network
Both organisational and peer groups - people who have been through the same experiences in the same environments. Lack of access to this contact can lead to a feeling of isolation and not being understood by the outside world.
Unfortunately, we call on our servicemen and women to go to war-torn environments and witness horrific things that the public will only see for 30 seconds on the news. Our troops are asked to live in these environments for months and years at a time, which clearly has a massive effect on their mental health.
From personal experience, I know that the military becomes your life as it provides everything as a routine for serving soldiers. This is then suddenly taken away when they leave.
Soldiers spend almost all of their time outside in an open environment both in the UK and on operations, we then expect them to return to work in factories or offices - something that is just completely alien to them. This can make it very difficult to adjust to ‘normal life’.
Unfortunately, most service personnel in the course of their duties will experience, witness or deal with things that leave emotional and mental scars – the death of close friends and the abject suffering of innocent people. Again, living in these environments for prolonged periods becomes part of a soldier’s reality. They then have to return to ‘normality’ with hardly any mental health support while serving and almost no support when they leave the armed forces.
I have faced all the above issues and it was only down to the support network around me, that I was able to stay on the right path. It is all too easy for a soldier to isolate themselves from society.
GARDEN TROOPS – OUR AIM
Garden Troops will bridge the gap caused by unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. We will endeavour to overcome the problems facing soldiers by taking unemployed and homeless veterans out of their situations firstly by offering employment and rehabilitating them through…
Establishing veterans with people from the same background with shared experiences so they understand they are not alone. Connecting them with others who feel and think the same way they do.
Positive interactions with the public, as well as providing a service to the community as they have before and, therefore, uphold the mantra that they are helping people, which is one of the main reasons they became soldiers. The impact on their well-being and self-worth cannot be underestimated.
Soldiers are proud men and women who live by core values. Troops don’t want handouts - they want to be given a chance to prove themselves. We want to give them that chance and, in the interim, provide accommodation and food to get our troops off the streets and then provide them with employment and a liveable wage.
As a gardening and landscaping company, we will return our troops to an environment they are familiar with - working with their hands as part of a team. We will provide support to transfer skills they already have and retrain where required.
Through our support network, we will begin to treat the root cause of the problems which have mainly evolved from the trauma that can be experienced in a military career.
This is a multi-faceted approach to rehabilitate service personnel, to be addressed simultaneously, so it can have long-lasting and positive effects.
HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT US?
First and foremost, we are not a charity!
We would be grateful for any financial support to provide:
Housing and food
At the moment we are in talks with private landlords and providers of houses with multiple occupation (HMOs) to deliver safe accommodation to get veterans off the streets and continue to support them until they can support themselves within our company.
Kit and equipment
As a company, we have invested shareholder funds to realise this vision. However, the more trucks, kit and equipment we can accumulate the more veterans we can help. One truck will help two ex-service members.
Spread the word
Darren Greenfield isn’t an isolated case. There are 10,000 homeless heroes on our streets. They die alone without anyone. We, as soldiers, know the risks we take by giving service but there shouldn’t be any risk in a country they have served. So spread the word about Darren and all those like him so that, one day, they can find a stable footing back in the world.
Your help is incredibly valuable in our fight to bring our comrades back from the places and circumstances they find themselves in through no fault of their own. Our gratitude and a simple ‘thank you’ barely covers it, so as an extra way of showing some appreciation for your financial donation, you will be automatically entered into a prize draw to win a garden makeover worth £500!
Thank you for your time. It is much appreciated.