Keith Bartlett

Retired Army Officer and SSAFA Mentor tells us about his role in helping service personnel transition into civilian life.

Keith Bartlett

Retired Army Officer and SSAFA Mentor tells us about his role in helping service personnel transition into civilian life.

Meet Keith, SSAFA mentor and former Officer in the Royal Army Educational Corps. Keith, who served in the Army for 36 years, now runs his own business and supports veterans as they transition into civvy life.

Why did you become a mentor?

“I decided to semi-retire from my business and was looking for something to do. I liked a SSAFA Facebook group and then the next thing I know, I saw an advert for the mentoring service ping up on my screen. I dug around a bit and I thought ‘yeah, I can do that’. So, I contacted Clare Bain who manages the service, and within 5 weeks I had been interviewed and was on my mentoring course in Nottingham!

“I was able to leave the Army on my own terms, I left my commission three years early to set up my business. These guys and gals are forced to leave the military because they are wounded, injured or sick. I want to help them and pay something back for 36 years of service.”

What is it like being a mentor?

“Being a mentor is different to other forms of volunteering. It’s making a long-term commitment to helping one person. I normally meet up with my mentees, every other week.

“You become a sounding board and guide, advise and empower people, you can’t do things for them. Sometimes that means things don’t always turn out exactly as you hope, but sometimes you can help someone achieve so much more than they ever imagined they could and that is a fantastic feeling.”

Who have you been mentoring most recently?

“I’ve been working with one young man called Jonjo, and ex-commando. We worked together for a few months and he went from jobless and homeless, sleeping in his own car, to getting a job, a home and getting engaged!

“I did have a big buzz of satisfaction when he got a job, when he got somewhere to live and all the rest of it – I just thought this is what it’s all about. It’s great to give back and I never thought I would have the chance to do something like this.”

What would you say to someone who is thinking of becoming a SSAFA mentor or volunteer?

“There are so many opportunities to support SSAFA, not just mentoring. I have family members and friends who are SSAFA caseworkers and support their local branches. It’s the charity to volunteer for if you want to be ‘hands on’ and really help people who have served. You are on the ground connected to people who need you.

"Mentoring is fantastic and I really enjoy it. If you think you could commit to one person for up to two years and work with them every couple of weeks, then go for it.

"When you see things moving positively there’s a little bit of you that thinks ‘I helped with that’, and when you get the big wins (and hopefully you will get the big wins) you can go home at night and say I did something good today.”