ZIMBABWE, BOTSWANA, SOUTH AFRICA AND TANZANIA 10 - 20 November 2015
In Zimbabwe RCEL works with ZANE (Zimbabwe a National Emergency) which was founded by Tom Benyon in 2005 after becoming involved with the provision of help to the widow of a Zimbabwe farmer murdered by the “veterans of the revolution”. Joined by Baroness Park of Monmouth they co-ordinated the immediate funding of grants for those old people who found themselves in desperate circumstances in Zimbabwe. Their successful fundraising campaign ensured that those most desperate received help. The ZANE team, now ably led by Lynda Crafter, have managed to distribute over £1.5 million of welfare grants, on behalf of RCEL and other military charities over the last 5 years.
The aim of the Secretary General’s 48 hour visit was to:
• Ensure welfare procedures between RCEL and ZANE were effective and agreeable to both parties
• Visit Care Homes and ex-service men and widows receiving welfare grants (both RCEL and “Agency” grants)
• Strengthen relationships with British Embassy
• Thank the ZANE team for the tremendous work they do in the most difficult circumstances
• Get a first hand feel for the situation so as to re-assure those other military charities in the UK that the significant amounts of money they contribute in welfare grants is being well spent.
The work that RCEL and other UK Military charities carry out in Zimbabwe is vitally important, and the amount of our annual welfare grant is unlikely to be reduced in the near future. The adoption of the US$ has helped everyone budget and plan, but has significantly increased the cost of everything, especially those living in the Care Homes. Without the dedicated ZANE team in UK and in Zimbabwe we would not be able to reach those who need our help the most.
Phyllis DeSimone (left) who has been in the Home for 21 years. She served in the WAAF between 1944-1948. Phyllis is supported with a grant from the RAFBF. Carolus Matthew Kriel (2nd right) who had served in the RN 1944 - 1945 on HMS Queen Elisabeth and had been in the Home for 13 years. Matthew is supported with a grant from the RNBT.
With the combined support of the DA, Colonel Ian Mills, the British High Commissioner to Botswana, his PA and Harold Lee, an ex-Parachute Regiment soldier, much was achieved in 2 days.
The visit exceeded expectations. Not only was the Botswana Department of Social Protection aware of the WW2 veterans, they were also prepared to help distribute through the District Officers, RCEL welfare grants to those on their ‘destitute’ list. Since the Secretary General’s visit it has been confirmed that there are 106 WW2 Veterans alive and well; these ex-servicemen will be considered for financial support in 2016.
We do not give the South African Legion of Military Veterans an annual welfare grant. All welfare contact between our two organisations involves individual welfare applications for British ex-servicemen and widows resident in South Africa, and the subsequent administration of grants made by British service charities. This “Agency” work has increased greatly in the last few years. Thirteen years ago we processed grants for 62 cases which totalled £18,775. Last year these figures had risen to 92 cases totalling £203,450.
The South African Legion is highly efficient and has been successful in dealing with the increasing number of individual welfare cases. It deserves our encouragement if it is to carry out its remit to care for the many veterans remaining and in need of its support.
Johnson was provided with a welfare payment, for which he was most thankful but he said it was the recognition that mattered more and that he was very grateful for that.
The recent payments were made under what was termed as Phase 1, which had been the identification of all pre-independence eligible veterans and the payment of a grant of about £50 each. Phase 2 is to set up a system to pay the 890 (or so) without the requirement for Ian Sharp to personally make the payments. It was agreed that the best way forward was for the Tanzania Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) network of District Training Teams would have responsibility for paying the veterans. This will work as they have already been involved and were responsible for arranging the pay parades for Ian Sharp. For this to happen there would be a requirement to transfer bulk grants to the TPDF for them to distribute. Ian Sharp would then, once a year, visit Tanzania to conduct an audit and visit one location to ensure the grants were being paid to individuals.
Tanzania has been a real success story in recent times and we can now be assured that the hundreds of veterans who served the Crown are receiving the support they deserve.
BELIZE, TRINIDAD & TOBAGO AND GUYANA 20 - 31 July 2015
The Sister Cecilia home was included in the visit programme. This home provides accommodation and welfare support for 50 residents. It is mainly funded by Help Age International and also the Belize Government. RCEL has previously assisted financially with certain projects. Currently, there is only one veteran at the Home.
There are 45 registered members, including 8 veterans and 6 widows who receive financial support.
In April 2014 the Guyana Legion merged with the Ex-Guyana Defence Force Association and was renamed the Guyana Veterans’ Legion. This increased membership from just over 200 to 767. The Legion is well organised under the strong leadership of Lt Col George Gomes. He is well assisted with a very active Executive Committee.
The Financial Controller visited Uncle Eddie’s House which had been established in 1965 to house elderly Guyanese veterans and widows without any next of kin.
BURMA 1 - 13 February 2015
Burma now has a hybrid system of military rule and democracy but the country is still a humanitarian disaster and civil war still ravages the border areas. The effect of military rule has been a severely impoverished and underdeveloped nation; Burma has been rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index.
Those Veterans and Widows who are eligible for RCEL, Help 4 Forgotten Allies (H4FA) and Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) support are from the Karen, Kachin, Chin and Gurkha ethnic minorities. A total of just under 300 individual grants were paid during the tour which focused on Yangon, Pyin Oo Lwin and Myitkyina.
Yangon – A number of home visits were made to Karen veterans and widows who are supported by RCEL, H4FA and Seafarers UK.
Pyin Oo Lwin – The beneficiaries of GWT grants are located around the town of Pyin Oo Lwin. There are currently 8 veterans and 33 widows who are supported. Most of the beneficiaries came to the Gurkha Temple in the town to collect their grants.
In Pyin Oo Lwin there are also 14 Karen veterans and widows who are directly supported with annual grants from RCEL SCOWP.
Myitkyina – The capital of Kachin State is where the office for the Kachin Veterans Committee is located. In excess of 500 veterans and widows are believed to be alive and a survey to ascertain exact numbers is still being undertaken.
CAMEROON 3 - 8 August 2015
The objective was to build a fund-generating Guest House in each of the two Provinces with the aim to make the organisation responsible for the welfare of its own veterans and to cater for the time when RCEL was either unable to continue with its grants or when all the veterans of the Crown have died. During this visit it was identified that both Guest Houses were in poor condition and required refurbishment.
There are currently 112 veterans and widows who receive support from RCEL.
Visits were made to a number of veterans and widows in Limbe and Bamenda areas.
Subsequent to this visit, FUCEMOC was provided with LIBOR funding to refurbish both Guest Houses. Dick Scott supervised the process and by the end of 2015 the work had been completed.