HRH The Countess of Wessex opens our new Life Skills facility in Llandudno

1 March 2017 11:00

A new facility supporting veterans who have lost their sight, limbs, or both, has been opened by Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex GCVO at a military charity’s training and rehabilitation centre in Llandudno, North Wales.

The Countess of Wessex, with Nick Caplin, Nicki Shaw and Steve Boswell, opening Life Skills Facility at LlandudnoBuilt in partnership between Blind Veterans UK and Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, this new “Life Skills” building will provide a rehabilitation environment to support essential life skills for independent living. The facility will support veterans who have lost their sight, limbs, or both, with a particular focus on supporting those who may be at risk of becoming homeless. This was HRH The Countess of Wessex’s first act as the new patron of Blind Veterans UK, the national charity for vision-impaired ex-Service men and women. HRH became the military charity’s patron after Her Majesty The Queen stepped down as patron of a number of charities and organisations at the end of last year. The building has been built after a £1.25 million grant received from the Veterans Accommodation Fund as well as through the generous donations of several other groups and individuals.

The Countess of Wessex  meets a blind veteran at LlandudnoChief Executive of Blind Veterans UK, Major General (Rtd) Nick Caplin CB, said: “This fantastic new building, and our Rehabilitation Team, will offer specialist bespoke life skills programmes which focus on mental wellbeing, career options, communication skills and health and fitness promotion. “It is an honour for all of us in the Blind Veterans UK family to welcome Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex as our Patron.” All of the accommodation has been designed to integrate seamless adaptations to support physical disability whilst providing a realistic home environment. The veterans are able to stay in the accommodation for short and long stays of up to six months. This provides an opportunity to comprehensively reassess their needs, make relevant adjustments, and make recommendations for ongoing community interventions. Chief Executive of Blesma, The Limbless Veterans, Barry Le Grys MBE, said: “This exciting project will provide new opportunities for Blesma Members, alongside their Blind Veterans UK colleagues, to lead independent and fulfilling lives.”

As well as opening the new building at the Blind Veterans UK training and rehabilitation centre, HRH The Countess of Wessex also got to see first-hand some of the other services the charity offers to veterans who have lost their sight.

These included visiting the charity’s Art and Craft studio where blind veterans learn new skills to be able to produce paintings, wood works and textiles. Some of these veterans are learning these skills, and therefore a new hobby, for the first time. Others, like Bill Mooney, have re-learned old skills and adapted new techniques to continue to be able to carry on a hobby he never thought possible when he lost his sight.

Bill, 74 and from County Durham, regularly visits the Blind Veterans UK centre in Llandudno after losing his sight due to retinal detachment. He had been a wood turner since 1959 but stopped when he lost his sight. He has since been trained by Blind Veterans UK staff to use a lathe again and continues to be an extremely talented Master Craftsman. He presented HRH The Countess of Wessex with a handmade pen that he turned himself as well as three other pens for Her Royal Highness’s family.