Chair of SSAFA branch at RAF Coningsby talks volunteering
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Sergeant Caroline Newton has a very busy role on the Unit, responsible for all of the personnel administration for the 29(Reserve) Squadron, and she is also the chair of a very active, successful SSAFA In Service Committee at Royal Air Force Coningsby. Here Caroline is interviewed before the launch of the Big Brew Up to be held at RAF Coningsby on Wednesday 22 March.
What is your primary role on the Station?
I’ve just been promoted from Sergeant to Flight Sergeant, so it is a time of change for me in the not too distant future! I’m currently looking after all of the Human Resources needs of the very busy 29(R) Squadron, which includes all of the day to day manning, welfare and administrative issues. As the Squadron is also the training platform for all of the new Typhoon pilots, I also am responsible for the course administration for all of the student pilots.
“It is a very busy, but exceptionally rewarding role. Customer focus is key and to be able to help someone with a problem or when they are stressed is really rewarding and I thoroughly enjoy working with the Team on the Squadron.”
How did you become involved with SSAFA?
I have always thought that SSAFA is such an excellent charity and I was really pleased to be able to support them on station. I was originally asked to help one of the Managers in our HR Flight, basically deputising for them at meetings and assisting in a small way. In January I took over as the Chair for the RAF Coningsby In Service Committee for the charity. It is such an amazing role as I get to work with a great team and be able to do what I love but on a wider scale…and yes that’s making a difference!
Why do you think SSAFA is such a great charity to support?
I think it’s because basically from the moment a Service person enlists in any of our Services, they are automatically a member and are covered by the brilliant support that SSAFA can offer. They don’t need to opt in or sign up – they are immediately part of our Community Support and SSAFA plays a huge part in that.
What sort of help can SSAFA offer?
There are mainly 3 strands of assistance and I’m so lucky to work with such a pro-active Committee to deliver these. Firstly, we have SSAFA Community Volunteers that are on hand to provide a sympathetic ear for those in need, childcare, enabling spouses time out away from their hectic lifestyles whilst loved ones are deployed and transport solutions for those who are unable to get around. Being a Community Volunteer is different to being a member of the In-Service committee, but are still very much part of the SSAFA family, new volunteers are always welcomed.
The second level we have is the onsite SSAFA confidential listening and support service – our SSAFA Case Work team, Dan Parkinson and Vikki Calder, are based on the Unit and are available for our personnel providing support and a social work service helping with a range of issues, from relationship and personal difficulties to bereavement and even debt and financial problems
The third level we have is the SSAFA In-Service committee, the UK’s oldest armed forces charity, raising money to support serving personnel and their families across ALL ranks. We don’t just provide assistance to those who may have a need; we can also provide extra services across the Station to help in the quality of life.
Do you think RAF Coningsby is unique with the SSAFA support we give?
Obviously I’m biased, but yes I think we are. We are a very proactive committee and I am keen, along with the team, to promote life on station for those in the Single Living Accommodation. It’s a unique idea that really is at the planning stage right now, but I’m really keen to get the idea off the ground! Basically it is based on the recent “Bisto – Spare Chair Sunday” campaign. For those personnel who are based away from their families, I think it would be great if we had a list of serving RAF personnel who were willing to offer a place at their Sunday Lunch for one of our own in Single Accommodation. It would be a great opportunity for both sides; to get to know more personnel on unit, for a chance to share a lovely meal and to get to be part of a family life when they are missing their own loved ones. This is just an idea right now but the team and I think this could be a winning idea that everyone could get involved in.
How is our Big Brew Up going to be different this year?
I wanted everyone on the station to be able to access the Big Brew this year so we are going mobile! We are going to have the usual cake sale and teas in the Lounge from 0900 until 1100 on Wednesday 22 March. This year though, I didn’t want the Squadrons to miss out – so we have a mobile unit to take cakes and tea over to them – everyone smiles after cake after all don’t they! If you can eat cake and it raises money then it has to be a winner!
If you're interested in becoming a SSAFA volunteer, get in touch here