Felix Fund – The Bomb Disposal Charity promotes the wellbeing of individuals within the EOD and Search community through hardship grants and therapeutic breaks. CEO Melanie Moughton explains more.
The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Search community across the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, as well as SO15 (the Metropolitan Police Counter Terror Unit), attends over 2,500 suspect devices, WWII bombs, and terrorist situations in the United Kingdom each year – a fact little known by the general public.
With the UK having in the last year been on the receiving end of increased terrorist activity, such as the Manchester bombing and attacks in London, the personnel from the EOD community are called on even more. These events have had a national impact, and our thoughts are with all of those who have been affected.
The men and women of the EOD community are on call 24/7 to assist the emergency services with such events and are continually on the front line protecting the country. You rarely see or hear of their contribution, but members of specialist military EOD units and SO15 play a pivotal role in exploiting and, where possible, preventing terrorist attacks.
Who are Felix Fund?
This continued exposure to highly stressful situations can have a lasting effect both physically and mentally on individuals in the EOD and Search community. Felix Fund – The Bomb Disposal Charity supports these brave professionals by providing much-needed welfare support and financial assistance.
In the first years of its existence Felix Fund provided normalisation breaks for over 100 EOD and Search community teams on their return from Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. These breaks were designed to identify or reduce the impact of mental stress that a high-pressure tour can bring about and consisted of a week’s therapeutic team-building activities and discussion groups designed to draw out and share operational experiences. More importantly, the breaks provided the opportunity to regroup and reinforce peer bonds with colleagues who had travelled the same operational journey. The breaks proved vital in identifying and ultimately reducing the risk of poor mental health among individuals.
Introducing the Dashboard Courses
Today Felix Fund continues to focus on the important issue of mental health amongst serving military, and in late 2015 we launched a programme providing preventative stress training based on mindfulness. Known as the Dashboard Courses, its aim is to provide individuals with tools and techniques which will enable them to recognise warning signs of stress and other mental health illnesses and to allow them to develop their ability to relax, clear their minds, and focus on positive aspects of their life. This will then feed back into a more productive and stress-reduced work and home environment.
The Dashboard Courses have proved very effective. How many training programmes will get a group of serving military doing yoga, performing breathing exercises, and running around a room playing catch with a fluffy toy? The key to the programme is a totally relaxed environment away from work and home stresses, where individuals can focus on themselves.
To date Felix Fund has had nearly 200 EOD and Search community personnel go through these courses, with fantastic results:
- 98% of people responded positively to the course and what it delivers;
- 90% stated that they would encourage colleagues to attend; and
- 80% stated that they would continue with the meditation and breathing techniques.
Other areas of activity
Another key area for Felix Fund is providing hardship grants to serving military, veterans, and their family members when they find themselves in times of need.
This can be as wide-ranging as home adaptations such as the installation of a lift for a multiple amputee, funding for a specially adapted vehicle, and in the purchase of specialist equipment such as electric wheelchairs and bespoke sporting equipment.
Some of our most recent support has been towards sporting wheelchairs. Two former Sappers, both of whom lost their legs in Afghanistan, have been provided with rugby and racing wheelchairs, which enabled them both to be selected for the Invictus Games in Toronto. The rugby team went on to win a silver medal.
We have also provided the young disabled son of a former Sapper with a football wheelchair. His family had relocated, and he was not able to borrow a chair at his new team, meaning he could no longer play. Now he has his own and is back on the pitch.
The charity is not just here for the serving and recent veterans; we have also helped those involved with WWII, purchasing a stair lift for the widow of a WWII Sapper and a specialist chair for a former RAF WWII bomb disposal veteran.
From wheelchairs to replacement windows to funeral costs, the charity prides itself on tailoring the help we give to match individuals’ needs.
Felix Fund also concentrates on sustaining the memories of those who gave their lives in the line of duty – from those bomb disposal personnel killed in the troubles in Cyprus in the 1950s through to those who died in the 1970s and 1980s in Northern Ireland and, more recently, those we lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We help with the upkeep of memorials to those men and women, as well as ensuring that they are never forgotten.
How you can help
The support Felix Fund provides is wide-ranging and is aimed at a high-profile tri-service community. At its heart is a desire to reduce the mental stress caused by conducting the duties expected of the EOD and Search community. For a small charity, its impact has been significant, and it is cutting edge in the services it provides.
This work can only be achieved if Felix Fund continues to gain support from both the military and civilian communities. Donations are vital to ensure the work continues. The men and women of the EOD & Search community may not be deployed in large numbers overseas currently, but they continue to keep us all safe, even when we are not aware of it.
You can help: make a donation, support an event, or hold your own fundraising challenges. We need your assistance. Let’s make sure these heroes get the help and support they so richly deserve.
This is a commercial feature which will appear in Government Europa Quarterly 26, available in July.