Community engagement; from motorsport to surfing

It’s been four years, almost to the day, that I offered to help a team of combat-injured guys with their Facebook page ahead of BBC 2 Top Gear featuring a film about them. Tony Harris and Tom Neathway with Andrew Taylor were putting together an off-road team with the ridiculous goal of entering the Dakar Rally in 2013. Richard Hammond thought that there was a real possibility that the guys could make it. Most people thought they were deluded. The rest, as they say, is history.

To read about Race2Recovery and their success in the Dakar Rally 2013 see this blog from Colene Evens-Allen:

                   MOTORSPORT -  DAKAR 2013 - PART 1MOTORSPORT -  DAKAR 2013 - PART 1

Last night I was proud to receive a UEA Engagement Award for outstanding achievement in public and community engagement. I had no idea in the summer of 2011 that this would be a part of my journey. There have been times when work and family quite rightly demanded my time and I wondered why I was making these commitments, adding extra stress to my life. Then just this week I saw statistics published on the number of ex-military suicides. The harsh realities of life for some people who have served in the Armed Forces keep me going.

UEA Community Engagement Award

I now work as a volunteer with two charities; The Baton and Surf Action. The Baton has the primary mission to raise and maintain awareness within the British public and our Allies about the reality of life for Armed Services personnel and their families. It exists to ensure that they are given the level of support that they are rightfully due.

                                                          BLOG JOSH 1 1407410130241_wps_1_Joshua_Ploetz_a_Marine_wh

Surf Action provide evidence-based ocean therapy or ‘blue gym’ for veterans with PTSD and to promote health and well-being for Armed Forces families.

                             Surf Action 1Surf Action 2                               

I haven’t left the world of off-road rallying completely; I’m supporting two former Race2Recovery team members, Alec Savery and Tom Neathway, who are promoting The Baton with their motorsport. Moving on from ‘recovery’ and ‘disability sport’ they are just two ex-military blokes with the primary aim of having a good time. They are planning on racing in Bulgaria in September and possibly Morocco in March 2016.

                     ALEC TOM BATON NEWBURY IMG_1419Tom Dakar 2013

As my connections grow across the social media virtual world I’m finding more people who are working successfully to support veterans and they are often veterans themselves. The best ones are providing small, active projects to help people in recovery from the trauma of war, physical and psychological. I was pleased recently to facilitate volunteering for occupational therapy and physiotherapy students from the University of East Anglia with the Re-Org Trust and Walking with the Wounded. I was deeply moved by Jonathan Weaver, representing the Re-Org Trust, when he spoke at the student seminar ‘Actively Supporting Veterans’. He bravely shared his story and reminded our healthcare students that they have precious skills, pleading with them not to forget our veterans.

I’ve written before, in my September 26th blog, about the ups and downs of volunteering. It still holds true that the friendships I made along the way are so precious. I also said, but it is worth repeating, that one person can’t change the world, but small acts of kindness can make a difference and even more so if we work together.




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