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SHARE A WALK TO SHARE THE LOAD – IT’S TIME TO ADDRESS OUR MENTAL HEALTH - Written by Joel Oxberry, WWTW Head of Income.

Needless to say, the pandemic has been a tough time for the third sector; we have all faced reduced income due to less face-to-face fundraising and hurdles to jump as Covid restrictions became our very way of life.


As a country, we had stood together, met obstacles we had never faced before and had to deal with so much, not least the deterioration of our mental health.

Whilst communities rallied together to protect others, support the NHS, and keep safe the ones we love, fewer people cancelled charity giving direct debits as they saw a need to support our beneficiaries. However, that was to change from Summer 2020, where over 1.6million Brits have now had to cancel their direct debits. Understandably, with fuel prices rising, increases in taxation and the ongoing threat of Covid restrictions, many are being much more cautious with their finances.

That left us with a challenge. Without regular income from donations, we become more reliant on other areas of fundraising. At Walking with the Wounded, we continued with our Walking Home for Christmas campaign in 2020, as walks were permitted, outside. Thankfully, as the campaign is our biggest and most well-known fundraiser and provides much-needed support to the veterans, we exist to help.

The mental health epidemic

One challenge we have all faced during lockdowns and throughout the unpredictable pandemic is our mental health. The feelings we are all feeling now, are common for many veterans as they struggle to find work, reengage relationships and deal with the trauma that they faced whilst serving our country. Forced to work from home, many have felt feelings of isolation, loss of the sense of purpose and being, and faced emotions that they have never felt before - according to our research. The same can't be said of our beneficiaries, veterans who face adversaries every day as they return to civilian life. One of our primary services for veterans is a professionally constructed mental health programme, working in partnership with the NHS, supporting veterans who have suffered during their journey back to civilian life.

The challenge of 2021

Our Walking Home for Christmas campaign in 2021, to support veterans, is centred around mental health. For anyone unaware of the campaign's premise: Every year, groups of people – friends, colleagues and our biggest fundraisers of 2020, cadet troops, come together to raise money for our deserving veterans by undertaking fundraising walks in December. Don't be fooled by the title; people don't just walk home. Every walker, group or troop has a unique activity they do as part of their walk. One carried home a Christmas Tree, for instance. This year, our theme is 'Nobody left behind after lockdown'. We are keen to address the impact of poor mental health on society and promote the benefits of walking, in the fresh air, sharing company and in the case of our supporters – with a bit of competition too.

Share a Walk, Share the Load

Our message for this year is 'Share a Walk, Share the Load'. The strain of mental health can feel heavy upon us, especially when unconfronted. We encourage walkers – be that a family, colleagues, choir, ramblers, or football team, to undertake their walk with a prop – such as a rucksack. The weight of the item symbolises - and physically represents - the weight of poor mental health. The load is shared, across the whole team, to illustrate the sharing of problems to address our mental wellbeing.

Motivate and elevate your troops

Whilst individual giving may have reduced slightly, there has been a significant rise in business leaders who have strengthened or increased their charity partnerships. We work with some fantastic teams year on year. The pandemic so negatively impacted our colleagues; working from home with no team interaction; lesser client entertaining; little, or no social events; and the constant reminder that we must stay at home has been challenging for everyone. As a business leader, you may have provisions in place to promote wellbeing within your teams. Many businesses should be commended for going above and beyond for their employees. As a positive next step into improved mental health, why not collate your team members and join Walking Home for Christmas in 2021.

Following lockdowns, fresh air, a brisk walk, great conversation, and a defined positive outcome could alleviate some of the feelings that have encapsulated us all. Many of your team will not have interacted in person for some time. Many are suffering from poor mental health, so could this provide them with what they need to open up and decrease the mental impact?

Walking Home for Christmas provides the sense of purpose for which we all long. Not only do you see your colleagues, but you can also reignite friendships and bonds, meet new people and have some time away from video calls and emails. Walking in support of our veterans means that every step you take, every pound you raise, goes on to support a veteran through our mental health programme. Our website provides a totaliser so that all walkers can check on the campaign progress. There is a bit of healthy competition too. Rival teams can compete to be the top fundraiser. A real-time leader board provides the challenge whilst detailing how the walkers have funded veterans' many future mental health sessions.

Ask your colleagues, "Do you know anyone who is or has been in the forces?". The chances are many will say 'yes'. Why not repay that soldier by dedicating your team's walk to them - whilst raising money to support their veteran comrades who need us most.

Get in touch to take part

Our main period for sign-ups is November, with walks taking place across the country between 10-20 December 2021. This year more than ever, we feel that businesses and their teams could benefit from taking part in a walk. To find out how you could be Walking Home for Christmas with our hundreds of others, find out more and get in touch at www.walkinghomeforchristmas.com