How the Poppy Appeal has helped veterans in need across the city
Archant Norfolk 2016
Returning to civilian life after a stint in the military can be a difficult period for some.
But a Norwich-based service run by veterans has been helping those struggling with the transition.
The Outside the Wire project provides everything from drug and alcohol advice, to one-to-one support for the armed forces community.
And now, thanks to funding from the Royal British Legion (RBL), it is looking to expand its operations even further across the region.
It is one of several schemes across the county that have benefited from the charity’s Poppy Appeal.
The project was founded in 2013 by former military police sergeant Andy Wicks after he realised no such service existed in Norfolk.
And what started with a £56 donation from a RBL fish and chip supper held in Cromer has now grown to cover two counties.
Mr Wicks, who served in the RAF for 22 years, said part of project’s success was due to it being run by ex-service personnel.
He explained: “The problem is that if you have a guy who has been in a combat zone and they are sitting in front of someone who is unable to understand that, they will just get up and walk out.
“But if they are speaking to someone who uses the same lingo as themselves, they will automatically feel at home and will be able to connect.”
Over the past three years, the service has helped more than 100 former and current military personnel struggling with issues including PTSD and alcohol addiction.
And in March this year it moved into its own headquarters next to the Britannia Cafe at HM Prison in Norwich.
The building, which is owned by the Ministry of Justice, is used to host its one-to-one and group support sessions.
Its location also allows recovery workers to visit veterans currently locked up within the prison.
Mr Wicks, manager, said: “We get guys who come in who have no legs or they have been blown up and have head trauma, and are not functioning correctly.
“But this building provides them with a safe environment to come and meet up in.”
This year, the Royal British Legion donated £35,000 for the support programme. Mr Wicks said the money will be used to help expand its vital service into parts of Essex for the first time. But he said that funding was a constant issue for the scheme, which is run by the Matthew Project. “We could not run this without the Legion’s help, but we need more sustainable funding in the long-term,” he said.
“The problem we have is that we don’t know if we will have money for the next year.”
For more information on Outside the Wire, call the Matthew Project on 01603 626123 or visit www.matthewproject.org
Have you been helped by Outside the Wire? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684