The story of AA Veterans Support is one of courage, hope, and, of course, charity. This special Northern Ireland not-for-profit offers a multitude of support services to anyone who has formerly served, is expecting in the near future to leave, or is currently serving the British Military. Since receiving a Promethean ActivPanel, the charity have been able to maintain their high standard of support services to their veterans while also upholding COVID-19 restriction guidelines.
Having discovered many uses for the technology in their day-to-day operations, the charity are still exploring the varied applications of the ActivPanel, excited by the potential it has to bring their work well and truly into the digital age. In 2008, Andy Allen – then 19 years old – was serving in the British Army overseas when the unthinkable happened: an attack left him with permanent visual and physical impairments. When he returned to his home of Northern Ireland, he found that the support available to him and his family left something to be desired. As part of his own recovery process, he became proactive in creating the kind of help he wanted to see, forming AA Veterans Support in 2011 along with family and friends.
Efforts were at first focused on Andy, but quickly extended to other veterans, working to overcome their obstacles together. Over the years, the charity’s services have grown to span the entirety of the Armed Forces, helping those who currently serve, or previously served, in the British Military and their families (including Reserve Forces and National Servicemen, a unique commitment when it comes to veteran advocates).
Actively supporting Northern Ireland’s veterans
AA Veterans Support offer services in aspects such as employability, benefits and housing guidance, counselling, respite, and wellbeing therapies focusing on mindfulness, fitness, and dietary advice. They also run support groups that range from breakfast clubs to craft groups – even a veteran football team with goals to play in Norway in 2022!
They’ve found that they can keep up with larger charities in terms of the volume and quality of support that they give – a feat they credit to the fact that, apart from bare running costs, all funds go directly to helping their beneficiaries. Running on an ethos of transparency, AA Veterans Support place high importance on their donors knowing exactly where their money is going.
All involved with AA Veterans Support are volunteers who do not seek to gain monetary reward. In fact, most of their staff are veterans themselves, who understand the unique challenges faced by those in the armed services and their families.
Nigel King is one such volunteer, acting as Welfare Officer for the charity. He is usually the first point of contact when someone reaches out for guidance and help, assessing their level of need, and making sure they get the right support.
A new kind of collaboration
During a meeting at Belfast Exposed (an independent, non-profit organisation and registered charity, founded in 1983 by a group of local photographers, situated in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter), with whom AA Veteran Support were working on a photography project for the veterans, Nigel noticed the Promethean ActivPanel on the wall and mentioned a need for something similar. His contact at Belfast Exposed highly recommended the device for facilitating meetings and presentations, especially since COVID-19 restrictions made remote collaborations the norm.
Nigel researched more about Promethean and the ActivPanel: what it was and how they could best make use of it. He was allured by the built in Android Module: “We didn’t really know what we wanted, but I was very drawn to the fact that you can use it as a computer as well as a display.”
It’s really launched us into the 21st century as far as IT is concernedNigel King, Welfare Officer
After getting in contact with Promethean, explaining the work the charity did for the community, AA Veterans Support were supplied with a 75” ActivPanel on a portable stand, along with an introductory training session from Promethean’s support team. “It’s really launched us into the 21st century as far as IT is concerned,” said Nigel of the transition.
For a charity that was used to whiteboards and mindmapping on paper flipcharts, the Whiteboard App has been a game-changer for AA Veterans Support. Now their brainstorming sessions can be saved, logged, and brought back for review, without paper waste or information loss. “We no longer need to chop a rainforest down in our sessions,” Nigel laughed.
The ActivPanel can often be found in the AA Veterans Support conference room, where it has proven invaluable in latter stages of lockdown restrictions, especially in conducting their “Safe Talk” workshops. The charity can continue to offer the lifesaving sessions delivering mental health first aid, while also respecting COVID-19 guidelines.
As we’re still coming out of lockdown, we’re thinking of new ways that we can use the ActivPanel, there really are unlimited possibilities.Nigel King, Welfare Officer
AA Veterans Support’s mindfulness trainers can now access training and upskilling information at the time of disseminating information, and the charity’s Family Fun Days have become a little more ‘fun’, as the ActivPanel can be set up to entertain the children of the veterans and volunteer staff.
Inspiration for the future
Nigel is confident about the charity’s potential to grow and learn alongside the ActivPanel: “As we’re still coming out of lockdown, we’re thinking of new ways that we can use the ActivPanel, there really are unlimited possibilities.”
Looking to the future, the charity plan to get a webcam for the ActivPanel, to further assist their veterans in watching and engaging with regular lectures on a range of topics from mental and physical health to employability training.
For further applications of the ActivPanel, the future is yet to be discovered, as Nigel and the rest of the volunteers begin to make use of the free online training and support materials offered through the Promethean website, “It’s a learning experience for us all, there’s quite an array of apps! I’m excited to sit down on my own and explore them.”
It’s a comfort, as well, to have a close contact with the Promethean support team, knowing they are just a phone call away if needed. Nigel hasn’t had to call yet, for now he and the rest of the team at AA Veterans Support are enjoying taking their time, exploring the ActivPanel and its many uses for themselves.
If you would similarly like to discover the many applications of the ActivPanel, you can request a live, expert demonstration.