michelle, div sec for ssafa southend branch at veterans club

Meet Michelle

Southend and Rochford Divisional Secretary and founder of the Veterans Club


Michelle talks about her experiences volunteering for SSAFA, and what setting up the Veterans Club has meant for the men and women in Southend.

"Thursday, when we hold Veterans' Club, is the best day of the week for me. I get hugs and kisses from all the visitors when they arrive and when they go home!

"We sit and chat and all the volunteers do the 'green cross code': stop, look and listen to our veterans. This allows us to notice changes and then act on what we see.  If we see an issue, we refer to local social workers and older peoples' advocates. This has stopped people becoming poorly and ending up in hospital. We also get support for families with a veteran with dementia. Talking to one client, we found out he had terminal cancer and that he couldn't get in his bath, so we put a case together and after getting his regiment to pay for an OT report, he got a much needed scooter and the OT also got the council to put in a wet room. Without the Veterans Club this would never have happened.

"Our latest addition to the Veterans Club is organising days out. For some, it's the only time they will leave Southend this year.

"We are doing our all to give our veterans their independence back. When I look at my veterans all smiling, I know that we have made a difference. On Thursdays my veterans have a reason to get dressed properly - shirt and tie - and go out. We have taken away the isolation they feel a lot of the time, and for a few hours they are the most important people in the world to us."

''When I look at my veterans all smiling I know that we have made a difference…We have taken away the isolation they feel"

"It's a big step for people to turn to SSAFA for support, so it's important that I show them within the first couple of minutes of chatting together that they can trust us and that we really are here to help them.

"When I'm not the caseworker myself, I won't get involved in the case but I am here to support my caseworkers whenever they need it. As Divisional Secretary, I also go and meet with new people who may be able to work with SSAFA to make our veterans' lives easier; I engage with the community, hospital and council social workers within the Southend area. I also work with my local council to raise awareness of the military covenant and we work together to make veterans' lives easier."

"My favourite thing about volunteering for SSAFA is the fact that when someone contacts us they are no longer alone. We are here to shoulder the problem. We are able to turn tears into laughter, mostly with simple solutions.

"Being part of SSAFA also gives me the sense of belonging again. I missed the service life and the community spirit; being part of SSAFA, I have that back.

"I know what it’s like to have no-one to turn to and I don't want anyone to feel like that, like they are drowning. I promised I would never turn my back on anyone and that's why I do what I do."