Getting Back into Employment
WWTW Veteran Liaison Support Officer Nigel Davies shares his experience getting back into work after being diagnosed with a life-changing disability
We sat down with WWTW Veteran Liaison Support Officer (VSLO) Nigel Davies, ex-King’s Own Royal Border Regiment, to talk about his experience as part of the disabled ex-military community and the challenges he overcame to return to working life.
12 years ago, after losing 80% of his eyesight due to a condition called Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy, Nigel thought he would be unable to work again. He had just been offered a great job as manager of a large health club but was unable to fulfil this role and ended up in a completely unexpected new stage of his life.
Instead of wallowing, Nigel decided to keep motivated by learning guitar. His goal was to have the confidence to play in public, which he achieved by playing at two local open-mic nights. He also spent time, training for causes close to his heart to raise money for charity. Within three months of his sight loss he managed to climb Ben Nevis and cycle to York over three days, raising over £3,000 for a children’s charity.
During this time, job opportunities were few and far between, especially with sight loss, and nothing seemed to quite fit what Nigel wanted to do or was able to carry out. This was compounded last year when he suffered a major heart attack, leaving him thinking perhaps he would never work again.
1. How did Walking With The Wounded help you?
Walking With The Wounded have helped me get my pride and
self-belief back, and I will now use my energy, passion and focus, to help
provide the support that every single one of our veterans deserve.
If anyone out there needs a friendly chat, or perhaps a little nudge in the right direction, please get in touch with me. Alongside my new role at WWTW, over the years, I have also received invaluable support from an organisation called Blind Veterans UK.. (who promote independence after sight loss). For me, my work with WWTW is an ideal opportunity to get involved in some way in helping other veterans and their families, giving them the support they need so that they can get their independence back.
2. What is a VLSO / What is your role?
A Veteran Liaison Support Officer is an exciting new role within WWTW, working in collaboration with the NHS for the High Intensity Service. My role is to engage with Veterans in mental health crisis with a holistic wrap around support for a 12 week period. My main aims are to support in areas of the outcome star with a view to empowering the Veteran in all aspects of their life, and eventually signposting them forward to seek and engage in long term support if necessary.
3. What do you like the most about being a VLSO?
When I started the VLSO role, I was just so proud that someone believed in me as much as I believed in myself. When I became visually impaired, I never lost sight (good pun) of my core skills of A: having a passion for understanding people’s personal barriers, and B: having the skills set to help support those people in moving themselves forward and breaking down those barriers.
So, the VLSO role enables me to combine both these core skills in supporting veterans in crisis, and that for me, drives me forward to do the very best I can in this new adventure in my life.
4. What advice would you offer to anyone who is experiencing a life-changing disability?
I was almost 50 when I lost 80% of me eyesight. It was a shock for me and my family. However, I am lucky to be wired with a positive mindset. So, my advice to anyone experiencing a life-changing disability is to recognize two things:
Firstly, focus on recognising and exploring what you “CAN DO”, rather than focusing on what you can no longer do. Secondly, surround yourself with those positive people who still see the value you can bring rather than engaging with people who feel sorry for you.
Inspired by Nigel’s story? Find out more about the services we offer here