Report of the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Welfare Programmes
Brigadier John King MBE - 2021

During 2021, it was with great relief that Covid had less impact than anticipated on the work of SCOWP to deliver welfare grants to needy pre-independence veterans and their widows throughout the Commonwealth. I congratulate all Member Organisations on their outstanding achievements during another difficult year. Whilst travel by office staff was curtailed after March 2020, our Member Organisations and in-country representatives were still able, with Covid-safe restrictions, to visit beneficiaries and make welfare grant payments. Payments are increasingly made by bank transfer in-country or by cheque.

In April, SCOWP began the third year of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) funded Commonwealth Veterans Programme, a five-year welfare programme to deliver the highest ever level of welfare grants to our beneficiaries. For many veterans and widows in the 28 countries within the programme the grants, equivalent to the cost of two meals a day in their country, have meant a significant increase in their welfare, beyond RCEL’s previous aim of providing one meal a day.

During 2021, SCOWP grants were made to 4,580 beneficiaries a decline of 23% from the 5,934 veterans and widows supported in 2020. Our global welfare distribution to 54 Member Organisations exceeded £3.74M including those of other Founder Members and UK Service Charities. This sum included 705 grant payments totalling £558,881 on behalf of some 32 UK-based charities as Agency work. Our disbursement of grants from Blind Veterans UK (BV UK) continues. Some 114 veterans were supported, down from 164 in 2020, but this £120 annual grant is highly valued by beneficiaries. The continued BV UK support is gratefully acknowledged.

The Royal Canadian Legion is also gratefully acknowledged for its generosity in 2021, contributing over £98,000 of welfare support to Member Organisations in the Caribbean, directly funding 36 beneficiaries in The Bahamas, and Trinidad & Tobago and part funding 40 veterans and widows in Antigua and Jamaica. Our other Founder Members, The Returned & Services League of Australia, The Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association and The South African Legion also contributed significantly to beneficiary welfare.

Happily, following the easing of Covid restrictions, RCEL staff were able to resume Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) visits to Member Organisations. In October 2021, Tim Burt, Controller Welfare and Grants was able to visit the Republic of Cyprus and finalise an arrangement with SSAFA Cyprus Branch to make payment to our beneficiaries following the closure of our Member Organisation, the Cyprus Veterans Association WWII. The summary of Tim’s successful visit can be read elsewhere in this report. Pasan Kularatne, Programme Manager, visited Pakistan and Sri Lanka in March 2022 and his reports can be found in later pages.

The benefit of RCEL Project Officers Johanna Lewin in the Caribbean and Derrick Cobbinah in West Africa was underlined as they were able to travel and provide essential assistance to eight Caribbean and four West African Member Organisations. Our Honorary Advisers across the Commonwealth must also be recognised and thanked for their continuing support. In addition, both Johanna Lewin and Derrick Cobbinah demonstrated the reach of RCEL beyond delivery of Welfare Grants to benefit veterans and widows by their work with Member Organisations in their countries to deliver additional assistance.

Throughout 2021, RCEL’s unique network of Member Organisations and partnership with UK-based service charities delivered welfare benefits beyond our routine grant making. The first example was the purchase by the Jamaica Legion of a replacement wheelchair-accessible minibus for the use of residents and staff at the veterans’ residence, Curphey Home near Kingston. RCEL represented the Jamaica Legion and approached ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund (RAFBF) to make donations towards the vehicle purchase. In addition to RCEL’s £4,000 donation, both the ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and the RAFBF made substantial contributions to match the funds raised in Jamaica. It was a proud moment when Lt Col Andrew Sewell, Chairman of Jamaica Legion was able to handover the minibus to World War Two and RAF veteran Gerard Manhertz.

Another example of RCEL partnership working was shown when we were able to assist Zimbabwe A National Emergency (ZANE) and the Rhodesian African Rifles Regimental Association (RAR) in the UK to get vital assistance to SCOWP beneficiary Mr Mawunganidze following the loss of his house to fire. Mr Mawunganidze enlisted into the RAR in 1950 and was discharged in 1967, seeing service in Malaya. Living with his wife and family in an isolated spot in Gokwe, midway between Harare and Bulawayo, Mr Mawunganidze survives on subsistence farming and his SCOWP grants.

In June 2021, the house caught fire and burnt down, leaving only the brick walls partially standing. They lost everything and the fire almost killed Mr Mawunganidze who was sitting under the shade of the thatched roof. Barely able to walk, when the house caught fire he could not move himself fast enough and was burnt on his legs. The family were now reliant on donations of food and clothing from neighbours. To avoid homelessness, Mr Mawunganidze and family desperately needed money to rebuild their home and buy new belongings. Referred by ZANE to RCEL, the RAR Association granted £400 to meet immediate needs and £4,000 to rebuild the house, a happy outcome.

SCOWP welfare grants, boosted for a third year by FCDO funds, continue to deliver life-changing funds to over 5,000 needy preindependence veterans and widows throughout the Commonwealth.

I am pleased our Member Organisations remained resilient in the face of Covid, delivering RCEL welfare grants to veterans and widows, providing a secure source of income to beneficiaries affording daily food-security to those who served the Crown and now look to us for their support.

RCEL - Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League - Registered Charity No. 1174874 - Haig House, 199 Borough High Street, London SE1 1AA, United Kingdom - Telephone +44 (0)20 3207 2413

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