In 2009, The Parachute Regiment Afghanistan Trust was set up to help fill some of the gaps in existing official welfare and charity provision. Since its inception it has raised £3Million that has been used to support wounded paratroopers, their families and the families of those members of the Regiment that have been killed in action in Afghanistan.
Providing mobility vehicles to amputees in 1, 2 and 3 PARA, specialist medical support, such as speech theory sessions, for a senior NCO with a severe head injury in 2 PARA and access improvements to the home of a young paratrooper in 4 PARA, are all activities that provide a flavour of the support the Afghanistan Trust has delivered. The charity has also facilitated support to the families in the form of funding additional accommodation and travel when visiting their loved ones or attending memorial events. In the last 3 years, a particular emphasis has been placed on assisting members of the Regiment facing medical discharge as a result of their injuries. This has included putting nearly 200 Paras through life skills and other civilian transition courses. The feedback from this support has been excellent and over 93% of individuals helped by the Trust have subsequently found civilian employment.
The Trust’s success has been driven by Colin Smith, as the charities CEO. Having spent over 40 years in the Regiment, Colin and his wife Sandie have worked tirelessly organising fund raising events, building relationships with sponsors and making sure that the support has been delivered to those that need it. Colin’s achievements are reflected by the Trust’s impressive list of backers that has included Barclays and Nissan, which between them have raised and donated over £800,000. Other organisations have included Afex, Saracens rugby club and Jaguar Land Rover. However, none of this would have been possible without also having a high level of support from the Regiment and those that serve within its ranks.
The Afghanistan Trust HAC dinner in London has been held every year since 2009; it has become an established high-profile City event and has raised over £600,000 for the charity. Each year all four battalions make a significant contribution to the dinner by hosting tables, providing equipment displays, colour parties and administrative support. The flash of mess scarlet, heavily armed Toms manning the stands and the dash of the Red Devils, has shown off the Parachute Regiment at its best and captured the hearts and generosity of the guests. A myriad of other support has been provided in the form of members, and ex-members, of the Regiment running marathons, dragging Agas across Britain and trekking up mountains. Many of the participants have included the wounded and their families; determined to put something back, their contribution has been the most heartening compliment regarding what the Trust has achieved.
Throughout, the Afghanistan Trust has enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with RHQ. Making a funding contribution to part of their staff, including the Regimental Welfare Officer, we have worked together with RHQ to maximise the Para Reg brand in a winning combination with the high profile of the Afghanistan Trust. However, as the UK’s involvement in Afghanistan ends, it is a profile that is likely to reduce over time as memories of the conflict and sacrifice fade from the public consciousness. Consequently, the trustees of the Afghanistan Trust (which includes all the serving commanding officers and Regimental Lt Col), have unanimously decided to merge with the Parachute Regiment Charity in January 2015 under a new combined brand banner of ‘Support our Paras’.
This is the right thing to do, as together the Regiment is going to be better positioned and the merger will provide sustainment of strengthened welfare provision into the future and beyond the public short-term memory of any one particular campaign. The lessons we have learned and best practices will be carried forward under ‘Support our Paras’ and Colin Smith will continue to serve the cause on the staff of the new charitable entity.
On a closing note, I would like to thank Colin for all that he has done and achieved. The commanding officers, past and present, of 1, 2, 3 and 4 PARA and the other trustees who gave up so much of their valuable time. My appreciation also goes to RHQ and the Colonel Commandant, as well as our generous sponsors, both individual and corporates, for their impressive generosity and support. Finally, I want to thank all the members of the Regiment; officers, NCOs, Toms and your families. You should be rightly proud of the difference that you have made and I commend you to continue your endeavours as part of Support our Paras.
I look forward to seeing you on the ground marching under our new colours.
Source: Airborne Assault ArchiveRead More