Veterans Aid builds on international links

November 29, 2017
Just weeks after welcoming the Canadian Veterans Ombudsman to its Central London Operations Centre, Veterans Aid hosted three Taiwanese visitors and a Hungarian student, confirming its position as an organisation at the heart of veterans affairs internationally.

Veterans Affairs Council R.O.C. Chief Col (Retd) Felix Wang, Secretary General Dr Jian-Ren Yang, CEO Veterans and Assistant Director of the Taipei Representative’s Office in the UK Col (James) Li-Chiang Yuan (pictured, from left) discussed their mutual commitment to the wellbeing of ex-service personnel with CEO Dr Hugh Milroy. The visitors were briefed about the charity’s work over an informal working lunch.

Dr Milroy said afterwards, “It was a pleasure and a privilege to welcome our guests and we discovered much common ground. I hope it will be the first step towards a closer relationship. There are many differences between the way our respective countries recruit, sustain and care for members of their Armed Forces after discharge, but the ethos of continuing care is one we share. The Taiwanese model is impressive and I believe we have much to learn from one another.”

Shortly afterwards the charity hosted Hungarian Erasmus student Dorina Denes from Belgium’s Thomas More University, one of the many academic organisations with which VA has an established relationship. Spokesman Jurgen Basstanie said, “We at Thomas More, the biggest university college in Flanders, have worked with Veterans Aid for many years. Veterans Aid has proven to be leading an excellent organisation, helping veterans in trouble getting their lives back on track.

“Hugh has welcomed our students to the charity’s London offices on many occasions, teaching them about the care that VA provides and the problems that its client group faces. He has given them insight into how the help that they provide can structurally change the lives of the veterans and help them back into education or jobs. He will be a guest speaker at the Thomas More International Days , March 2018, sharing his expertise with some 500 students in the field of social work.”

But ahead of that, on December 14th, Veterans Aid will once again be welcoming colleagues from the Danish Veterans Centret – almost a year after Hans Kirk Sørensen and Elisabeth Wibroe (pictured) last visited.

The international traffic to VA started in 2010 when Professor Hitoshi Kawano from Japan’s Defense Academy came to consult. Newly re-branded (in 2007 the Ex-Services Fellowship Centre became Veterans Aid) the charity was already developing a reputation for independent thinking.

Further approaches to VA followed – from academics and veterans organisations in Canada, Argentina, Israel, Fiji and Australia.

David Everitt, Presiding Member (Chairman) of the Australian Veterans Health Advisory Council said, “Global conflict has continued since World War Two, with many countries uniting to operate in coalitions to maintain freedom. Sadly, the same countries have not provided the same united support to assist their returning veterans. Governments and communities have found it difficult to understand, accept and manage the challenges that veterans face in transition.

“Many academic papers have addressed these issues, many dollars spent, and some positive outcomes achieved. However, nations who formed coalitions to fight have been tardy in forming plans and coalitions to help veterans transition back into the community.

“Dr Hugh Milroy stands as a beacon in this area. Having developed the Welfare to Wellbeing© model he and his team at London-based Veterans Aid are delivering programs that are successfully turning veterans into successful and fulfilled citizens. His dedicated team are delivering life-changing services.

“It is the global recognition from counties like Canada, Denmark and Belgium that stamps Dr Milroy as a unique and fierce leader in this field of transition. As his approach and achievements spread, a common theme will develop bringing together many individuals and organisations dedicated to delivering improved services, reducing duplication of effort and improving investment ranging from research to more effective services. He is a committed visionary whose dedication to delivery of veterans’ services is to be both commended and respected.”

Dr Milroy said, “Everyone gets the idea of helping veterans in distress, even if only on humanitarian grounds, but after that it becomes complicated. People have entrenched ideas about ex-servicemen and women, often based on urban myths and stereotypes. Against this background there is much debate about what kind of help is needed, and how best to deliver it. Veterans Aid believes that ex-servicemen and women just want the same things as everyone else – security, dignity, employment and a decent quality of life. These are aspirations of veterans worldwide – however different their backgrounds, experiences of combat or military life.

“Inevitably Veterans Aid has dealt with members of the 54 Commonwealth countries from which the British Armed Forces recruit. Non-British citizens account for around 12 percent of Britain’s Armed Forces; many are from Fiji and around 3,500 Nepalese citizens serve in the brigade of Gurkhas.

Through academic, political or personal overtures VA has had dealings with many of these nations and in 2014 became the only veteran-specific member of FEANTSA – the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless. Since then VA representatives have attended and contributed to FEANTSA events in Italy (Bergamo), France (Paris) Ireland (Dublin) and Poland (Warsaw).

“Poverty and social exclusion are inextricably linked to homelessness everywhere. The underlying causes of both are societal and veterans are part of society and through FEANTSA, we are at the heart of the European community ” said Dr Milroy.

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