FirstLight Trust calls on supporters to join The 2.6 Challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a catastrophic effect with the cancellation of thousands of events and the loss of billions in income through fundraising events. The Virgin Money London Marathon, which should have taken place on Sunday 26 April, is the world’s biggest one-day fundraising event, and raised more than £66.4 million for thousands of charities in 2019 alone. In response, the organisers of the biggest mass participation sports events across the country have come together to create a new campaign to raise vital funds to help our fundraising and save the UK’s charities.

The campaign, The 2.6 Challenge, will launch on Sunday 26 April 2020 – what should have been the date of the 40th London Marathon. The 2.6 Challenge is open to anyone of any age and ability – the only requirement is that the activity must follow the Government guidelines on exercise and social distancing and remember to stay local.

FirstLight Trust needs your help, as supporting UK veterans of the emergency services and armed forces has become vital now more than ever. Issues with housing, money and mental health are going to be widespread amongst emergency service personnel following the crisis. By donating or fundraising for FirstLight Trust in the 2.6 Challenge you can help them raise vital funds and enable them to help more veterans at this difficult time.

“This is a fantastic initiative bringing people together at a time when it’s needed the most,” says the charity’s founder, Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “We’re looking forward to seeing all of the creative activities people come up with!”

FirstLight is asking you to dream up an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26 and start fundraising or donating now via their Virgin Money Giving page or JustGiving page.

If you’re in need of ideas for your activity, please visit FirstLight Trust’s website.

COVID-19 UPDATE

FirstLight Trust is committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 and we are abiding by government recommendations that are currently in place. Action has been taken to protect the health and wellbeing of the people FirstLight supports, its colleagues, supporters and members of the public. 

Hubs 

The FirstLight Trust hubs are physically closed but we are still providing virtual (and very real) support to veterans.  Pease get in touch with one of our fantastic colleagues should you need support: 

Lynne: 07342 080362 

Sally: 07464 828050 

Sam: 07881 232597 

The hub doors will re-open when it is safe to do so following government recommendations. 

Events 

All FirstLight Trust events and activities are currently cancelled. Please see your local hub’s Facebook page for future updates  

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If you have any specific queries you can contact us on 0207 730 7545. 

The FirstLight Trust team are having to adapt and work in new and innovative ways to provide support to those who need it at this unprecedented time. Like all charities the pandemic has hit hard our normal working and our fundraising initiatives and had a major impact on charity income. We are however still fully committed to supporting veterans of the emergency services and armed forces and welcome any donations to help us to continue this vital work. 

We thank you for your continued support during this challenging time.  

You can follow our Facebook page, Twitter or LinkedIn platforms for regular posts and updates. 

Please donate today and help us to help others. 

Stretch for Stress Down Day UK

Boost your mood with an online ‘Stretchalong’

A leading British charity is asking the UK to take stretching to a new level in a bid to help our physical and emotional well-being.

FirstLight Trust is a charity offering practical support for veterans of the emergency services and military. Their next Stress Down Day UK on 27 March will offer fun hints and ideas to educate the public and veterans alike with hints and exercises to help reduce stress.

“During this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself and focus on your wellbeing,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the charity’s founder. “We’re suggesting people take just a few moments to de-stress and relax. This could be anything from looking at the sky to yawning with your cat. Plus we’ve a fun online video to stretch along to.”

Through their work rehabilitating veterans back into their communities, the charity has found that even the smallest action can make a big impact. Many studies have shown that stretching helps release stress in the muscles. The Stretch for Stress Down Day UK video is suggested as a simple and effective exercise for anyone who would like to take part. Supporters are encouraged to post photos of their pets stretching using the hashtag #StressDownDayUK

For your very own free positive feeling, watch the Stretch for Stress Down Day video online. Any online donations will help the charity’s work supporting former ambulance drivers, paramedics, police, firefighters and armed forces veterans suffering from extreme stress.

Coronavirus statement from FirstLight Trust’s founder and one of our long-term supporters

This is a very difficult and demanding time for everyone. At FirstLight Trust the support that we give to armed forces and emergency services veterans, their families and the wider community and to each other is very important. It will continue to be more so in the weeks and months ahead as the world faces the many challenges the coronavirus brings.


Lady Jane Grosvenor, long-term supporter who is actively working with us behind the scenes, said:

“The charity’s founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray and I have been impressed by how FirstLight Trust colleagues have pulled together to keep Hubs open and at the creative ideas to continue offering support to veterans and emergency services despite the challenges faced. Each day the situation and recommendations are changing. FirstLight Trust is following government and public health advice and will take each day as it comes.

For any veterans who are requiring support please do reach out to us, and we will do all we can to ensure you are supported. This includes simple things that might make a difference if you are self-isolating, like being a friendly ear at the end of a phone, picking up shopping for you, posting mail or collecting urgent supplies.

To our colleagues we both want to say a very big thank you! This is what FirstLight Trust is about, helping and supporting others. We also value each and every one of our colleagues, so please do follow advice that is given and look after you and yours.”

If you want to get in contact for help or a chat, our hub phone numbers are:

Gosport 02392 583099
Hawick 01450 218647
Hereford 01432 806604
Lancaster 01524 587068
Scarborough 01723 361210
Redcar 01642 758021

Coronavirus statement - photo of sunrise over fields

Statement on Coronavirus by FirstLight Trust

Last updated 16 March 2020

FirstLight Trust is a caring charity that gives a high priority to the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues, clients and customers. It is after all what we do, and our café hubs always aim to provide a safe and clean environment.

As such we are following advice from Public Health and Government Agencies in relation to the coronavirus.

FirstLight Trust staff in our café hubs will themselves be hand washing on a frequent basis. They will ensure that normal regular hygiene and cleaning standards are met and supported by increased attention to those surfaces and areas used by customers and staff.

If you’re a customer then please follow government advice on frequent hand washing and Catch it. Kill it. Bin it.  

Following current recommended guidelines any FirstLight staff member who has flu like symptoms will isolate for seven days.

It is a very challenging time for all, and we thank you for your continued support.

Let us all be kind and help each other.

If you have any concerns or need support, please contact your local hub:

Gosport – 02392 583099

Hereford – 01432 806604 / 07342 080362

Scarborough – 01723 361210 / 07775 758388

Hawick – 01450 218647

Redcar – 01642 758021 / 07721 237315

Lancaster – 01524 587068

If your call rings through, please leave a voice message with your name and number for a colleague to call back.

Dorinda Wolfe Murray (charity founder)

FirstLight Trust
34 Grosvenor Gardens
London
SW1W 0DH

Tel:  +44 (0) 207 730 7545
Tel: +44 7464 828049

NHS and naval expert James Hayward, newest trustee

NHS and naval expert lends support to veterans’ charity

FirstLight Trust, a charity helping former members of the armed forces and emergency services get back on their feet, has appointed a new trustee. James Hayward served in the Royal Navy as a Maritime Reserve Officer for more than 20 years, rising to the rank of Commander. His last post was Commanding Officer of HMS FORWARD. He is also a Professional Chartered Engineer with more than 40 years’ experience, spending over half of that time within the NHS in senior Director roles.

“I’ve had two careers running in parallel, serving in the NHS, the first and second Gulf Wars and then in the middle East after 2001,” says James. “I’ve seen first-hand the impact conflict can have on individuals and their families from the armed forces and blue light services, especially following major incidents. I whole-heartedly believe in FirstLight Trust’s values and their practical approach to helping military and emergency service veterans. It’s wonderful to be offered the opportunity to support and promote this vital charity.”

 “We are delighted to have James join the team,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray from FirstLight Trust. “Our sixth cafe hub for veterans in Hereford has just celebrated its first birthday. It joined our existing Sharpe’s establishments in Hawick, Gosport, Lancaster, Redcar and Scarborough. James’s experience in project management, estate management and finance will be invaluable. Myself and all the trustees are very much looking forward to working with him over the coming years.”

Many of James’ multi-million pound projects involved estate management, and managing schemes from concept to post project evaluation. He has been the non-executive Chairman of the housing association Beyond Housing and in the NHS a lead director for emergency planning. He is also involved in the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association Yorkshire and Humber.

Best-selling author Bernard Cornwell OBE, author of the Sharpe novels and The Last Kingdom series featuring Uhtred of Bebbanburg, continues as patron of the charity.

Aubaine restaurant - Notting Hill

Generosity served to homeless veterans

Throughout the month of December French restaurant chain, Aubaine, teamed up with leading veterans’ charity, FirstLight Trust, to run a campaign in support of homeless veterans of the armed forces and blue light services. For one month only Aubaine customers were given the option to include a £1 donation on their bill in support of this vital cause, from which a very generous £6,000 was raised.

The Aubaine campaign has come at a crucial time for FirstLight Trust, as homelessness and suicide rates are on the increase, which is familiar at this time of year. The winter months are difficult for many veterans, starting with Remembrance Day which can be a stark reminder of so many lost lives. Many also face loneliness and intensified feelings of isolation in the build up to Christmas. Over the last year, FirstLight Trust has supported more than 40 street sleepers and homeless veterans into quality housing and prevented 18 suicides. The donations received from the Aubaine campaign will be a tremendous contribution towards their crucial work.

“It’s a fantastic start to the New Year, and a push in the right direction,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “The campaign has not only generated much needed donations, but it has also granted exposure on the issue of homelessness within the veteran community. Thank you to Aubaine and their wonderful customers for such amazing care and generosity!”

FirstLight Trust works at a local level within communities, creating safe and welcoming spaces for veterans and helping them to adjust to civilian life, whatever that looks like for each individual. Their cafe hubs are currently based in Gosport, Hawick, Hereford, Lancaster, Redcar and Scarborough open to veterans and the public alike.

Aubaine has establishments in Brompton Road, Kensington, Marylebone, Mayfair, Notting Hill, London Selfridges, Covent Garden and The Dubai Mall, serving delicious French food all year round.

Hawick cafe hub raffle - founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray and Councillor John Greenwell

A winning Christmas for charity’s Hawick cafe hub

Christmas came early for a handful of FirstLight Trust Hawick cafe hub patrons when the annual fundraising raffle was drawn this week.

Scottish Borders Council’s Armed Forces and Veterans Champion Councillor John Greenwell visited the charity on Monday to draw the raffle and chat to veterans and staff about the great work being done to support military and blue light veterans in the Borders.

Prizes included a superb hamper full of seasonal goodies, a Christmas cake baked and decorated by FirstLight Trust cook Wendy, a sock monkey handmade in the Borders by Sew Loved Sock Monkeys, two £10 vouchers donated by Lindsay Grieve Butchers, a FirstLight cafe voucher for coffee and cake for two and various other prizes.

Councillor Greenwell commented:

“I was delighted to be asked to draw the raffle for FirstLight Trust. The charity does great work in Hawick and the Borders as a whole, supporting our military and blue light veterans.

 “I would like to congratulate the prize winners and wish everyone involved with FirstLight Trust a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2020.”

Dorinda Wolfe Murray, founder of FirstLight Trust added:

“I am very grateful to Councillor Greenwell for taking time out of his busy schedule to come and draw the raffle for us.

“I’d also like to thank all those who bought raffle tickets and contributed prizes. We managed to raise around £100 which will go directly towards helping our veterans.

“This was an incredibly busy year for FirstLight Trust and it is thanks to donations and contributions from our generous supporters that we will be able to continue with the work we are doing here in Hawick and the Borders.”

Everyone, including well-behaved dogs, is welcome at FirstLight Trust’s Hawick cafe hub at 1-3 High Street to enjoy a hot beverage or some delicious home baking. They also accept donations of books, clothing and bric-a-brac to sell in the cafe hub.

In the photo: Councillor John Greenwell, Armed Forces and Veterans Champion and Dorinda Wolfe Murray, founder of FirstLight Trust drawing the raffle in Hawick this week.

Christmas dessert in a restaurant - copyright Aubaine

Christmas cheer on the menu for homeless veterans

In this most festive of months, a group of French restaurants is encouraging their guests to help homeless veterans by donating £1 when they dine. Aubaine runs six restaurants and a deli concept across London and even in Dubai. They have teamed up with leading veterans’ charity FirstLight Trust to ensure those that served in the armed forces or emergency services have a roof over their heads.

“At Aubaine, we have always been proud to demonstrate our core values and uphold our social responsibility by collaborating with great charitable organisations,” says Aubaine’s founder and CEO Hani Nakkach. “Our goal in working with FirstLight Trust is to raise awareness and vital funds to support UK veterans of the armed forces and emergency services.”

FirstLight Trust finds housing for veterans who are on the streets, or on the verge of being made homeless. Securing their place on the GlobalGiving donations platform this autumn has led to some notable successes. They helped a 29-year old homeless veteran in Hereford with food and a week-long stay in a B&B whilst they arranged permanent housing. FirstLight Trust also secured accommodation in Liverpool for a homeless veteran in Lancaster, with help from two other charities.

“We are very grateful to Aubaine and their customers for getting in the Christmas spirit and giving us their support,” says Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “Every pound donated will go towards giving practical help to former members of the military and blue light services. Aubaine offers fresh, honest food. We offer fresh, honest support. This partnership really is a match made in Father Christmas’s workshop!”

FirstLight Trust runs charity cafe hubs in Gosport, Hawick, Hereford, Lancaster, Redcar and Scarborough open to veterans and the public alike.

Aubaine has establishments in Brompton Road, Kensington, Marylebone, Mayfair, Notting Hill, London Selfridges, Covent Garden and The Dubai Mall.

Prince Charles at Hawick veterans cafe hub - copyright ILM Imaging

Prince Charles chats to Hawick veterans in surprise visit

One veterans’ charity in Hawick received a welcome visit earlier this month when Prince Charles popped in for a visit. On 1 November His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland, took a tour of the town. This included Sharpe’s, the cafe hub of FirstLight Trust open to veterans and the public alike.

“I spoke to Prince Charles, who I’d met on several occasions. He was a perfect gentleman, mingling with the veterans and others there,” says one veteran. “He spoke at length with me, even cracking a joke about one of our previous meetings, and seemed genuinely interested in the hub and the users.”

The duke has a strong connection with the armed forces. While at Cambridge University he received flying instruction from the Royal Air Force. He then trained at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, followed by service on the guided missile destroyer HMS Norfolk and two frigates. Qualifying as a helicopter pilot, the duke joined 845 Naval Air Squadron, which operated from the Commando carrier HMS Hermes. In 1976, the Duke of Rothesay took command of the coastal minehunter HMS Bronington for his last nine months in the Navy.

 “It was such an honour for us to be visited by His Royal Highness,” adds Dorinda Wolfe Murray, the founder of FirstLight Trust. “He spoke to all the veterans who were in the cafe and to our colleagues who work so hard to create such a great atmosphere. There was lots of banter and laughter, which echoes what we encourage within the hub.  He also enjoyed some of our tea loaf. Sadly he didn’t have time for a coffee but he’s always welcome next time he comes to The Borders!”

Hawick’s FirstLight Trust cafe hub is open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5pm at 1-3 High Street Hawick TD9 9BZ and is open to veterans and the public alike. Well-behaved dogs on leads are also welcome.

Veteran suicide - play raises money and awareness

Coronation Street star’s play raises money to tackle veteran suicide

A one-woman show written by Coronation Street and Downton Abbey actor Christine Mackie has focused the spotlight on the issue of veteran suicide, wowed critics and helped raise money for charity. Best Girl is a true family affair as it is performed by Christine’s daughter, actor Lois Mackie. The play highlights the issue of veteran suicide and the devastating impact it has on their loved ones. Christine’s father, a World War II veteran, took his own life when she was just a child, leaving her with trauma she couldn’t process for years. After having her own children, Christine sought professional help to deal with her grief and how to talk to her daughters about it.

It was first performed at this year’s Greater Manchester Fringe and then at the Edinburgh Fringe. Best Girl Productions were keen to support charities through ticket sales and audience member donations. One of these was leading veterans’ charity FirstLight Trust.

“Lois and I are so happy that Best Girl was able to give a total of £1000 to FirstLight Trust,” says Christine. “The work it does is truly inspiring, and we were so grateful for their support during this adventure, helping publicising the play. It was also great to perform in front of their veterans from their Hawick cafe hub who visited us in Edinburgh. Doing the show was a brilliantly positive experience and handing over this much money is the icing on the cake!”

FirstLight Trust works to rehabilitate those leaving and those who have left the Armed Forces and Emergency Services back into their communities. They focus on practical, community-based solutions to address problems caused by isolation and mental health issues. FirstLight Trust also tackles the ‘invisible’ injuries of mental health such as PTSD and anxiety, and the misunderstanding that come with this.

“Significant parallels can be drawn between the crucial work FirstLight Trust does to support veterans, and the various themes accurately portrayed in this brilliant production,” says charity founder Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “We are extremely thankful to the generous audience members and to the Best Girl team for this donation. Every penny will go towards supporting veterans and their loved ones suffering from various forms of trauma.”

Best Girl was highly recommended by The Edinburgh Fringe Review and was nominated for Best Actor and Best Drama in the Greater Manchester Fringe Awards. It is playing at The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster next year on the 9th, 10th and 11th April and at Oldham Coliseum Studio on the 16th and 17th April 2020.

In support of veterans - running the Royal Parks Half

Running the Royal Parks Half in support of veterans

The eleventh Royal Parks Half Marathon took place earlier this month across four of London’s beautiful Royal Parks. The race is presented by the Royal Bank of Canada, sponsored by Lululemon and has over 16,000 participants. Leading veterans’ charity, FirstLight Trust, had three runners taking part for the first time this year, one of whom is their own Rose Bradbury.

 “The race route is incredibly picturesque,” explains Rose. “It was so lovely to take in the amazing scenery whilst I was running, particularly with the autumnal colours scattered across the Royal Parks. The landmarks also made great check points to aim for.”

The race started in Hyde Park then went through Green Park and St James’s Park with fleeting visits to Downing Street, Somerset House and Trafalgar Square. The route continued through Admiralty Arch and along the Mall to Buckingham Palace, with runners once again picking up Green Park. They then made their way through Wellington Arch back to Hyde Park and along the spiralling paths of Kensington Gardens.

“Between us we raised close to £1,000 for FirstLight Trust,” adds Rose. “It’s a terrific event, with plenty of fun activities for spectators as well as runners, and raising money for a fantastic charity made the day even better.”

FirstLight Trust have plans to register for upcoming racing events around the UK. Details will be posted on their social media channels – @firstlighttrust on Twitter and Facebook – with information on how those who would like to support veterans can sign up.

“It is always brilliant when we have people fund raising for us – it gives the whole charity a real buzz,” explains FirstLight Trust’s founder, Dorinda Wolfe Murray. “I am so grateful to Rose. We are coming into our busiest and most challenging time of year with many veterans finding it difficult to deal with Remembrance and Christmas. Donations really make all the difference in our work supporting veterans through the tough winter months.”

Fundraisers who would like to raise money for FirstLight Trust can set up their own fundraising page following this link: https://www.globalgiving.org/dy/v2/fundraisers/start/?fundraiser.projids=41526