8 December 2015
A team of Armed Forces veterans who now work for Nationwide Building Society will be Walking With The Wounded this December.
The seven strong team will be walking 80 miles from Nationwide’s Northampton Admin Centre to Shrivenham within 24 hours to raise money for Walking with the Wounded’s fundraising campaign Walking Home for Christmas which supports homeless veterans.
As well as raising money, the team also hope to raise awareness of the challenges that former Armed Forces personnel sometimes encounter when they leave the services.
The challenge was the idea of former Queens Royal Lancers captain Olly Church, who has been told by his doctor that he should no longer run after his heel was shattered when he stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device in Afghanistan five years ago.
Olly, who has been a Project Delivery Manager at Nationwide for a year, was leading his team when they encountered an area where the Taliban had laid IEDs. His second in command was seriously injured when he stepped on a device and during the rescue operation Olly himself stepped on another IED.
“Only the detonator went off but the impact was enough to shatter my heel” the 37-year-old said.
Father-of-three Olly was later to discover that the explosion didn’t only damage his foot; it had also caused a less visible problem – damage to his brain.
Olly was later discharged on medical grounds because his foot injury was degenerative. He subsequently served alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland and as a civil servant at the Home Office but found that he wasn’t able to concentrate. He realised the problem was becoming more serious when he struggled to focus while reading. He went on to suffer more side effects of his brain injury including anxiety attacks and he decided to retire from the Home Office. The symptoms also led to depression and eventually a neuropsychological break down.
Only when he received support from military-focused charities and started working with them in support of fellow veterans, did he regain his confidence and started to think about embarking on a second career.
He joined Nationwide as a Project Delivery Manager in 2014 but did not tell his colleagues about his problems until he felt settled in his role and understood the inclusive working culture at Nationwide.
He said: “I wanted to do this walk as a last adventure before having the next major operation on my foot; my doctor has advised me to avoid running or walking long distances in future. It’s going to be pretty gruelling and we’re going to have to run quite a lot of it to complete it within time.
“I really identify with Walking With The Wounded because they give people who have left the services confidence which empowers them to change their lives by getting back into work and re-establishing a sense of purpose.
“I also wanted to do this to raise awareness about mental health and how I feel it should be treated like physical health – mental health problems present many varied challenges and people may need more support during these times. I also want to challenge the perception that people with mental health problems are just good for the scrap heap – there’s a lot they can offer if they have the right support and they often come through far stronger and more resilient than before.
“I still have some symptoms but I know how to manage things now which makes things easier.”
Olly will be joined by six of his Nationwide colleagues who are all former Armed Forces personnel.
“This is the furthest we’ll ever have walked in one go. It’s a real challenge and proves that just because we’re all getting older doesn’t mean you can’t set yourself goals that stretch you physically and psychologically further than ever before.”
Olly and the team will be using the two volunteering days that Nationwide encourages employees to use for fund raising and volunteering to carry out the challenge. The Society will also match fund sponsorship of up to £500. Anyone can sign up to Walking Home for Christmas and walk any distance to help support the campaign.
Andy Sloan, Partnership and Events Manager for Walking With The Wounded said: “We wish Olly and his team all the very best with their remarkable plan. We’ve been bowled over by the incredible, varied and ingenious challenges that people such as Olly are undertaking for Walking Home For Christmas and Nationwide’s generous matched funding makes a huge difference to amplify the team’s efforts. More than 1,000 people have already signed up to the campaign this year and with their, yours and Olly’s help we’re aiming to raise £250,000 to fund five more projects to support homeless veterans back into work and independence.”
To sponsor Olly and the team visit: https://www.justgiving.com/ON-Church
Nationwide launched its Military Transition Programme this year which recruits former Armed Forces personnel and supports them as they make the transition from the Armed Forces to Nationwide.
Kevin Moylan, Nationwide’s Head of PM Practice and Military Transition Programme sponsor said: “We’re delighted that Olly and the team are taking on this challenge and that a very important charity such as Walking With the Wounded will benefit from this feat. Nationwide actively supports these fantastic efforts and is proud to offer the Military Transition Programme to help ex-military personnel in the next stages of their careers.”