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‘I feel strongly that if you can discuss your situation with someone who understands, sometimes it eases your pain because it means you’re not the only one facing that situation’
… so says William Olando, who, with the support of Stoll, is well on the way to a new career as a caseworker. He’s recently been visiting Stoll’s monthly drop-in sessions in a professional capacity as part of his placement with the Royal British Legion, where he was able to use his own experiences to help and advise other veterans in need of support. Here’s his story …
William, aged 33, joined the Army back in 2011 and was a rifleman in 4 Rifles, based in New Normandy Barracks, Aldershot. Talking fondly about his time in the Armed Forces, William says: ‘I really enjoyed being in the Rifles. I took a real pride in being the fittest I could be and even won the best fitness award at the end of training. I also had the opportunity to go to Canada for a training exercise, which was a great experience.’
In 2012, just before the unit was deployed to Afghanistan, William injured his back during training and needed surgery. It was a very difficult time for him and something of a double blow – not only did he miss going on tour, but his injury eventually led to him being medically discharged.
‘I was annoyed because I’d planned to have my career in the Army and suddenly that was taken away from me. And so was my fitness. There really was nothing I could do – my life changed and I was facing a future on civvy street. I decided that I wanted to move to London to be closer to my girlfriend and have some support, but there was a problem with the accommodation and I ended up sharing a crowded house, which made day-to-day life very difficult for me.’
William was offered temporary accommodation via Veterans Aid, where he stayed for a short while, struggling with his injury because of an unsuitable mattress. He was eventually referred to Stoll by a friend and they found him a permanent home in South London within a few weeks. ‘It took me some time to get myself together and pick myself up. Stoll were brilliant. Having a home changed everything – the way I feel about everything. It meant I was able to apply to study and I secured a place at the London Metropolitan University where I’m doing a degree in Community Development and Leadership. I was also able to get a part-time job in security to help fund my living expenses while I study.’
Once he’s completed his studies, William plans to focus his career on helping the veterans’ community by becoming a caseworker. His personal experience means he’s well placed to identify with the experiences of veterans and he recently undertook a successful placement with the Royal British Legion, where he now volunteers. ‘I know that when you leave the military, things look different and you think there is no life for you outside. Especially if there is a situation that is pushing you out of the Forces that you aren’t in control of, like an injury,’ he continues. ‘But it’s important to remember you had a life before you entered the Forces and it helped me to think of leaving as another transition. I was determined and gained support from other veterans and charities.’
Reflecting on his decision to follow a new career path as a caseworker, William says: ‘Getting involved with Stoll, I’ve met so many people with the same problems as me. I know exactly what those veterans are going through – even the most educated and experienced soldiers can struggle. I want veterans to know how transferable their skills are – for example, the security sector is always on the lookout for people with skills learned in the military.
‘I feel strongly that if you can discuss your situation with someone who understands, sometimes it eases your pain because it means you’re not the only one facing that situation. I helped my brothers and sisters inside the Forces and I want to do exactly the same now I’m outside.’
Stoll is the leading provider of supported housing for Veterans. Most people who leave the Armed Forces transition effectively back into civilian life. But not everyone does. Stoll supports the most vulnerable Service Leavers by providing people with an affordable home to rent and the support they need to lead independent lives. The charity, Walking With The Wounded, provides Stoll with an Employment Advisor to support Veterans to get a job or training.
Find out more
Stoll’s outreach team provides advice and support to Service leavers and Veterans on a wide range of issues, from housing to work and benefits to access to expert healthcare: email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7385 2110.
Stoll’s drop-in runs every second Wednesday of the month at its Fulham site (see above), in the Community Hall
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