Veterans for Wildlife are very pleased to announce that we have secured the backing of Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, who will support the charity's unique Footprints of Hope Veterans Wellness Retreat. Many in the veteran community know Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC for his work and effort in respect of veteran well-being in the United Kingdom (UK). From 2012 to 2018 he was the Government's Special Representative for Veterans' Transition. Appointed by the Prime Minister, part of this role included the commission and publication of the Veterans Transition Review, which looked in detail into many aspects of the transition from the military to civilian life, including training, employment, health, housing, welfare and finance. Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC is also an environmental conservationist and has previously funded projects,  aimed at protecting and preserving maritime species. 

Footprints of Hope project is a two week intensive, fully-immersive programme consisting of mentoring, animal assisted therapy (AAT), TRiM, Therapeutic Art and Yoga Nidra. It will take place at Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary, the worlds largest baby rhino sanctuary. Participating veterans will be taught targeted approaches to dealing with negative emotions and their consequences for the individual.

Veterans for Wildlife believes that AAT, via exposure to (previously) wild animals, within a rehabilitation setting, offers a unique and insightful experience. By putting the needs of animals, often in a worse position than the participants, such participants are able to gain perspective on their own lives and to find a sense of purpose in caring for something other than themselves. Similar, in a sense, to the brotherhood and buddy-buddy system that they would have encountered in military life.

The purpose of the programme is to provide a support structure, in a contained environment, in which the therapeutic advantages of working with animals can be explored and understood. In addition to this, veterans will be encouraged to work through their own personal trauma via Animal-Assisted Therapy activities and gaining a better awareness of their own wellness will be explored.

The programme will consist of 8 group sessions over a period of two weeks, where the following topics will be discussed:

  • Understanding trauma and adjustment through the Human-Animal connection: this section of the programme will assist participants in understanding their own trauma and using Animal-Assisted Therapy interventions and activities to guide them on a journey of insight and healing. The principals of TRiM, the science of the Human-Animal connection and elements of existentialism will be employed.
  • General Wellbeing: this section of the programme will cover topics such as Emotional Intelligence, Resilience Building and Mindfulness. It will be supported by Therapeutic Art Activities as well as Yoga Nidra.

The sessions will include content from the various topics as well as exercises in order to facilitate a process of experiential learning.

Volunteers will be invited to participate in the wellness programme and each one will receive a manual with the content of the group sessions. There will also be time for reflection on the session of the day within the group context. The sharing of experiences in a contained environment will not only act as a catalyst for the individuals' feelings, but will also enrich their overall experience with Veterans for Wildlife.

Ultimately, the whole journey of coming to South Africa and working with Veterans for Wildlife should encompass a holistic experience of service, awareness, wellness and the creation of meaning for oneself.

If you know of anyone who might benefit from this programme please share this with them and get them to apply!

Apply to take part in the programme