Injured servicemen and women are being given the opportunity to re-build their lives, gain qualifications and learn new skills by transforming and restoring historic canals.
Canal & River Trust and Help for Heroes have come together for the first time to deliver an ambitious canal restoration and career recovery programme for wounded, injured or sick servicemen, women and veterans.
Up to 60 veterans, from across the country, will join the Heritage Heroes project and work alongside local canal societies and Canal & River Trust engineers to transform four forgotten canals. The 18-month project will also see 1,000 new volunteers recruited from nearby local communities.
The project, made possible by £500,000 funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery, aims to bring pride and purpose back to heroic veterans while restoring canals, some of which have been left neglected for decades.
Giles Woodhouse, Head of Recovery South at Help for Heroes, said, "Leaving the military or realising that your career choice may no longer be possible can be daunting, especially for those who are living with life-changing injuries and illnesses.
"Working towards a new goal in life through career recovery can be extremely beneficial to an individual’s overall wellbeing, often accelerating their personal recovery journey."
Help for Heroes veteran David Teague served as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers before he was medically discharged following a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. At his lowest, he would refuse to leave his house and stopped contact with friends. He now feels ready to start his life again and hopes Heritage Heroes will improve his career prospects.
David said, "Having joined the Army at 16, I feel massively institutionalised and my hope is that Heritage Heroes will help with my transition into civilian life.
"I really want to get back into working as part of a team and build up my confidence again. I'm really excited to take the next step in my new life and I'm grateful for this opportunity."