by Jo Moulton
Anything unknown in life comes with, I guess, a certain amount of expectation. Just because we are holding them here at work today, let’s use the scenario of going to a job interview as an example; you will have expectations about the place, the people, what’s going to happen when you arrive, your own performance, how the whole thing is going to pan-out. And sometimes you’re vaguely right, sometimes you’re not. Sometimes a seemingly easy to forecast scenario throws up an element that is completely unexpected.
What I’m finding out as I’m continuing my learning journey as Content Creator for Devon Community Foundation is despite what it might look like at first glance, nothing is straightforward. Nothing is simple. So, I should have known that, despite the research and reading preparation I did for the two groups we met with today, I wasn’t right to assume that I wasn’t going to be surprised.
On paper Green Hook Fishing is an organisation based in Plymouth who use the process of ship-building to work with ex-service personnel to support them if they have ‘fallen outside the traditional re-settlement system.’ Green Hook’s mission statement also includes words like ‘homeless’ ‘rough sleepers’ ‘ex-offenders’ and ‘addicts’ which are all words I have to admit, have become all too easy for me read without really thinking about them; to automatically assume I know what they mean, know the kind of person they represent. And therefore what, on this occasion, to expect.
We meet Ken and Herbie who both served in the Royal Navy. Green Hook Fishing was a germ of idea that started as conversation fodder between the two comrades, that continued to grow over many years of service until it reached the fully thought-out plan that is being executed today.
Ken tells us it started because they saw recruits make mistakes or bad decisions and be dismissed from service under their strict no-tolerance policy, time and time again. These indiscretions that may have only earned them a ‘slap on the wrist’ as far as the law was concerned, left these men or women with no home and no job, such is the nature of Service life.
Once part of a huge team with a sense of belonging and camaraderie, they were all of a sudden, alone.
Ken goes on to inform us that some men and women join the forces as mere boys and girls, as young, sometimes as just 16 years of age. All the days of their lives they are told when to get up, where to be, what to do, they are fed, watered, all their basic needs are met. Once out, they have to get used to fending for themselves.
Among these ex-recruits are also those that once upon a time, joined to escape abuse, violence, or neglect at home and therefore need the structure, stability and sense of family that the Armed Forces provide. Again, all of that, can be all at once, gone.
Had my eyebrows not been well and truly raised by the scenario being painted before me already, they certainly were to learn that in addition to all that, some ex-veterans of course, have to deal with witnessing the unimaginable things that happen during combat.
Whether they leave by choice or involuntarily, whether any of the above circumstances apply or not, the adjustment to outside life to ex-service personnel is huge. Suddenly the preconception of those words changed for me. Put in the position Ken describes and suddenly being ‘homeless’ ‘rough sleeper’ ‘ex-offender’ and ‘addict’ doesn’t seem like that big of a leap for anyone, does it?
The Green Hook realisation has encountered its own bumps in the road but Ken and Herbie are resolute in delivering what has become a very ambitious plan. Premises, tools, machinery, equipment and even a boat mould salvaged from Cornwall have been secured for what will be a ship building, sailing, fishing, fish processing and selling co-operative. Being a co-operative means that as well as gaining confidence and skills, the participants, of which it is estimated there will eventually be 30, will feel part of the work rather than, to use Ken’s words ‘being indebted to it’.
Green Hook is currently working with 3 men. They tell us that one, who is with them today, got his house in Plymouth 2 years ago and, until being introduced to Green Hook, never went outside. At first when attending he just wanted to make tea, but his involvement, along with his self-esteem, has slowly become greater. Two other participants didn’t make it in during our visit day; one suffers with PTSD, and both were finding engagement hard.
Ken and Herbie told us that they have faced rather a steep learning curve, and that although they have the support of a psychotherapist, probation workers and other outside services working with their participants, understandably, it is often incredibly difficult to support and manage them.
The thing is, no one expects Ken or Herbie to do this. They do it because they care and want to help. And that too is staggering. At least to me, who finds it hard to imagine being that self-less.
My job at DCF gives me a real opportunity to see beyond that which can all too quickly be dismissed as something that, or somebody who, is easily understood. My job is to try and scratch at the surface of complex issues, and be a voice for those people who are tied up in them, who are possibly misunderstood, and to say thank you for them when they cannot. It’s to try and tell the mostly unsung stories of those people that are going beyond all expectations to help them. And it’s to try and inspire those who have the ability to help them, to please do so.
So, if I’ve told you something you didn’t expect to hear today or encouraged you to think a little bit deeper, well actually, my boss was totally right to see through my utterly terrible job interview performance!
As well as the fantastic people enabling the Green Hook Fishing project, it wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for the funding and benefactors that are helping along the way.
Devon Community Foundation has been able to support Green Hook Fishing with a multi-year grant thanks to the Plymouth Drake Foundation Royal British Legion fund.
We were also informed of a wonderful story of giving whilst during our visit, of a donor that offered to help Green Hook with a £50,000 donation. Ken got a phone call soon after the offer was made, from the donor saying that he had discussed it with his daughters and had a change of heart. Fearing the worst, Ken was then thrilled to hear that on the contrary, not only had the daughters given the funding a green light, but they had insisted their Dad give more – and his donation was to be increased to £75,000 instead. There was a single condition to his gift, that one of the vessels built by Green Hook be named after his late brother.
If you would like to support great work like this, or that of the many other small groups, organisations and charities that we fund, our Philanthropy Team would be delighted to hear from you.