Get Involved… as a Ski Buddy
Can I become a Buddy?
Veterans have made their contribution to society.
This is a chance to make yours.
To become part of our expanding buddy community please apply online. Applications are open for the 2018 week – 2nd to 10th March 2018, see below
If you are not a great skier, you can still be a useful part of the Buddy community.
Please contact us and help us and join our fundraising events.
Veterans have made their contribution to society.
This is a chance to make yours.
This is a life changing week; an immensely inspiring and fun experience in which you can make a truly meaningful difference to the lives of our wounded veterans.
Every buddy selected for our Ski Weeks has wanted to come back the following year. To discover why, read the first-hand accounts of some of our former buddies below.
Buddy: Tom Hetherington
Day job: Architect
My identical twin brother Robert Murray Hetherington was 25 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand Province in Afghanistan April 2013.
Robert, or Bobby, as he was known to those close to him, loved the camaraderie of the Army. He had joined the Officers’ Training Corps while at university and after graduating successfully passed the AOSB (Army Officer Selection Board) at Sandhurst, before choosing to serve instead with the Territorial Army. In order to deploy, he was attached to The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, when he died six weeks into his first tour.
After losing Bobby, I resolved to take on a challenge every year in his memory. I did a Tough Mudder and ran the Edinburgh, London and New York Marathons before finding Supporting Wounded Veterans on a Google search.
Bobby and I had skied together all our lives – it was our thing. He had taken part in Army Biathlon competitions, and the combination of skiing with military personnel was just perfect, so it instantly felt right for me to apply for a place as a buddy. I wanted to be able to help those with whom Bobby would have served. But there was a self-interest, too. We are not a military family and I wanted to glimpse at first hand the camaraderie that I know had meant so much to my brother.
Supporting Wounded Veterans gave me one of the most incredible weeks of my life. Everyone on the trip – veterans, buddies and organisers – was an amazing person with the best of motives for being there. I skied with veterans who were battling severe PTSD. For one near beginner, the challenge was to come down a black run by the end of the week – he made it and the beer we had at the end of that run meant a huge amount to both of us. For another, who had been an experienced skier in the past, the goal was to regain his confidence so that he could go on a skiing holiday with his son. He achieved that goal and realised that his PTSD need not dictate his ability to enjoy life.
The SwH networks are ongoing – along with the banter and bonding sense of humour. We are all part of a whole new family. Being in the mountains always brings me closer to Bobby. Being there with the vets was an immensely powerful experience – and great privilege.Tom, buddy 2016
Buddy: Geoff Clark
Day job: Team building and leadership coach
My partner served in the RAF so we have a lot of ex-Forces friends. She has also had her own PTSD issues so naturally, we’re tuned into some of the ongoing needs of veterans.
We came across Supporting Wounded Veterans on Facebook and I immediately knew I wanted to be part of it. I used to work in the IT industry back in my native UK, so I’ve undergone some transitions in my life, and my hope was that the listening and motivation skills I’ve developed as a coach would be of some use.
The moment I met with the other buddies in Klosters, there was a sense of kinship. And it was the same when we were teamed up with the vets. Everyone is nervous, but instinctively, you recognise those with whom you can start a conversation and those who need a little time.
By day two, I had had some big moments. One vet I was buddying had a flashback when poor visibility on the mountain triggered traumatic memories for him. We stopped skiing and sat outside in the quiet watching the lazy snowflakes fall and letting the right time to talk find us. As we spoke about what had gone on in our morning, we were eventually able to trace the flashback triggers to several events during his service. He was someone who had selflessly given of himself for our country and, in a small way, by being alongside him in that moment, I was able to make a difference. I realised then that being a buddy wasn’t so much about the skiing as being present.
My big hope in becoming a buddy had been that I would boost the confidence of others. The unexpected freebie for me was that, by helping others see their way out of some dark places, my own self-belief got a boost, too.
I came home to my partner and gave her the biggest hug. I’ve always strived to understand what she was going through with PTSD. And thanks to SwH, I now understand on a different level.Geoff, buddy 2016
Buddy: Virginia Furness
Day job: financial journalist
I have many friends serving in the Forces and a cousin who has been heavily involved in fund-raising for Supporting Wounded Veterans. Three years ago, I took part in a bike ride for the charity and resolved then to apply to be a buddy when the time was right.
This year, I secured my place and was instantly nervous about living up to expectations. I’ve had a happy and untroubled life. I know I’m naturally chatty and supportive, but would I be able to help those coping with life-changing injuries and mental health problems?
I was buddied with Alex, a remarkable man who, at 28, is the same age as me. When I was doing my GCSEs, he was enrolling in the Army. As I finished my A levels, he was being sent to Afghanistan as a Grenadier Guardsman. While I went through university, he had to come to terms with horrific injuries after being shot in the head at point blank range by a Taliban fighter. He lost his right eye and lived with crippling PTSD after being medically discharged.
Alex came to SwH because he wanted to access the return-to-work mentoring support the charity provides as he set up a landscape gardening business in his home city of Lincoln. He has turned is life around and is wonderfully inspiring and caring man who throughout the week supported other veterans at an earlier stage of their recovery journeys. For Alex, the trip was a chance to reflect and celebrate that there was life beyond injury.
When you talk to veterans on a SwH week, surface conversations can become deep and heartfelt very quickly. In the beautiful mountains, the charity has created a safe space where they can unburden themselves and not be judged. As a buddy, I realised I didn’t need any special qualifications. I just needed to go with an open mind, ready to reach out, listen and talk. By giving a little of your time, you really can make a huge difference.Virginia, buddy 2016
Buddy: Isabelle Hayhoe
Day job: Manages philanthropy for British investment management firm
I came across Supporting Wounded Veterans when the charity approached my employer looking for support. We put together a team for the 2016 Business Challenge and I was lucky enough to be appointed Captain. My colleagues and I had the most phenomenal time in Klosters with some of the veterans from last year’s Ski Week and as soon as I returned, I wrote to SwH asking what more I could do to help. By sheer fluke, the charity needed another ski buddy at short notice and I was offered the slot. Within weeks – having fund-raised to earn my place and booked some last minute time off work – I was back in Klosters.
The Ski Week was a very different experience to the Business Challenge. As buddies, we were alongside veterans at a much earlier stage of their journey. My father was a Grenadier Guard and I have friends in the Royal Marines and the Army, so I knew something about military camaraderie, but I had had little exposure to the physical injuries and combat stress endured by the SwH vets.
I was a buddy to a female vet who was coping with back and knee injuries, and two young men suffering from PTSD. You don’t have to spend long talking to any of the vets to realise that they want to be treated as people, not victims. Yes, they have had a hard time and it is important to be patient, respectful and incredibly sensitive to their needs, but they also need to have a laugh and a joke and not be mollycoddled. Sometimes it’s a case of tough love. The charity is brilliant at bringing everyone together and setting the right tone – it really works.
I’m a chatterbox who rarely struggles for words, but it was hard, on my return, to articulate just how much the Ski Week meant to me. I had no idea that eight days in the Swiss mountains could have such a profound effect on so many people. It was a host of contradictions – inspiring and heart-breaking, electrifying and calming, exhausting and exhilarating. I am still in constant touch with the vets via Facebook and WhatsApp and I’m in awe of their indefatigable attitudes. They have changed my perspective and made me hugely appreciative. Having seen men missing limbs learn to ski, I realise that no problem is insurmountable. The truth is that it is we buddies who are the lucky ones to have met so many remarkable and inspirational people.
Buddy: Grania Bromley
Day job: Volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Society
I heard about SwH through an old friend, applied to become a buddy in 2014 and was unsuccessful, applied again and – yay! – I was in.
As a buddy, your biggest hope is that you can be somehow useful. I’m passionate about skiing which helps. And I’m a trained – although non-practising – osteopath, which I guess means that I am slightly more aware of managing physical injuries. I also have a cousin who is paraplegic following a riding accident and now uses a sit-ski. Listening to him explain how much it means to still be able to get down a mountain has been a massive inspiration.
I joined the 2015 Ski Week and was instantly bowled over by the resilience and banter among many of the veterans. They are so unbelievably rude to each other – but in such a positive way! And behind that bravado is incredible courage. Many have survived such hideous physical injuries that the idea of falling over doesn’t bother them too much. Then there are those with PTSD and for them, the trip is way out of their comfort zone.
At the start of the week, everyone is feeling a little overwhelmed, but within a couple of days you can see the vets growing in confidence. As buddies, we share a lot of fun moments with them, but as they come out of themselves, some vets also share details of the horrendous experiences they have been through. That can be harrowing, but there is so much love within SwH, and the charity is small enough to ensure that everyone is cared for and valued as an individual.
This year, I secured my buddy place by buying it in a fund-raising auction. It was a priceless opportunity to do it all again. I buddied with Neil, a double amputee who was injured in Afghanistan. He had never skied before but proved to be phenomenal in a sit-ski and now considering a ski holiday with his children. That is just one small illustration of how profoundly life-changing Supporting Wounded Veterans is proving to be.Grania, buddy 2015/16
Buddy: Tom Batting
Day job: Co-founder of Obby, a website for classes, courses and workshops
I know Klosters well because I worked there as a ski instructor in my gap year. I also considered an Army career at one stage, although I’ve ended up working in business. But a lot of my friends from university in Newcastle did enlist, so when I heard about Supporting Wounded Veterans, I thought volunteering could be my way of making a small contribution.
I’ve buddied with several veterans, including Jamie Weller, who is registered blind. Skiing with him was amazing, but also scary – you are on a mountain with someone’s life in your hands. Jamie was jaw-droppingly brave – I tried doing what he was doing and skied blindfold, it was so terrifying, I stopped within 15 metres. He was nervous to start with, but by the end of the week, he was out-skiing us all and he has since become part of the Combined Services Disabled Skiing Team.
Like a lot of young people, I can’t afford to donate so much money to charity that I am going to make a huge difference, but through being a buddy, I was able to give something of myself. The payback was priceless – I witnessed someone’s life being transformed in the space of a week. Buddies are there to help the veterans, but the reality is that the veterans inspire and teach us so much more than we can ever offer them.
Buddy: Arabella Chichester
Day job: Partner in leading executive search firm
Six years ago, Dougie Dalzell was serving as a lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards when he was killed in an IED explosion in central Helmand. Dougie was one our closest family friends and I had known him all my life. It was his 27th birthday on the day he died.
I wanted to do something tangible in Dougie’s memory, and when I heard about Supporting Wounded Veterans, I immediately volunteered and have been lucky enough to be a buddy on two trips. On my first trip, I supported a former army engineer who had suffered severe leg injuries in Afghanistan. He had never skied before, but we were able to get him going in a sit-ski. He lived with constant pain and was taking 40 pills a day, but half way through the week he told me that he had had his first full night’s sleep in two years.
After returning home, he secured a job as a project manager. He has also since married and completely weaned himself off all pain killers. In an email he wrote: “For the first time since being injured, I feel like my life is back to normal…you have dragged me from the pits of hell and brought me back to the person I was.”
Second time round, I was a buddy to an officer who had suffered shattering nerve damage injuries in 2005 while on an operational tour in Iraq. This man was a private individual, and very understated, but when I returned home, I was overcome to receive a seven page letter detailing the powerful impact the trip had had on him.
The welfare of his fellow men was always of the utmost importance to Dougie, so by being a buddy I feel that I am doing something in his name that is really worthwhile.Tom Batting buddy 2014/15/16