Sport - Walking with the wounded

7th December 2012 at 00:00
What is life like for injured soldiers and their families?

I was working as a supply teacher in a primary school when the charity Help for Heroes was launched in 2007. With family links to the armed forces, I was fascinated by the work it was doing and became a volunteer.

The charity has raised more than #163;150 million so far and works closely with the Army, Navy and RAF to provide direct, practical support to our wounded, injured and sick service men and women and veterans, and the families who support them.

As part of our work we were often asked to speak in primary schools, but began to feel that we didn't have the right tools. We wanted to let children know that wounded returning soldiers didn't belong in the past. Some of them were young men and women, who could be the children's parent or even older sibling.

So we developed Heroes Hat Trick, a lively and non-threatening resource to educate children while getting them actively involved. We sometimes visit schools with wounded service people and veterans, but the resource can stand alone. It includes teacher's notes, a resource pack, posters and two DVDs. One features celebrities, such as members of boyband One Direction, explaining how the charity works. The other shows children and a couple of my ex-Army friends, both of whom have had leg amputations, taking part in the Heroes Hat Trick.

This is a series of challenges that can be set in PE or on sports days. There is a three-legged obstacle course, a blindfolded obstacle course and a challenge in which each child must get a netball through a hoop while sitting down.

Children find it huge fun, and it encourages communication, physical dexterity and team work. But there is another, more serious mission: the children begin to understand some of the challenges the wounded face every day. I am always very emotional when meeting our wounded for the first time. But children are incredibly uninhibited with their questions: they want to know how prosthetic limbs work, whether they hurt, whether you can jump while wearing one and how they stay on.

We decided early on to deliver the message of war, and its consequences, as factually as possible. We don't shy away from the fact that sometimes members of our armed forces are killed. But for every death there are between five and eight casualties - and we can help. It's important not to frighten the children, so the teacher's notes suggest ways of distancing the war from the immediate environment. The free resource pack can help children to understand how difficult a wounded soldier's life can be: try getting them to tie shoelaces with only one hand.

The feedback from schools has been tremendous. If we can introduce a new generation to the reality of our armed forces and the work that Help for Heroes is doing, I will be very proud.

Former primary school teacher Katie Wilson is now East of England regional coordinator at Help for Heroes. To receive a free Heroes Hat Trick pack, register at: www.helpforheroes.org.ukheroes_hat_trick.html

What else?

Sclindal has shared an obstacle course unit to get pupils moving. bit.lyObstacleCourse

Try Dancing diva's lesson, in which pupils create a dance to represent soldiers in a parade. bit.lyParadeDance.

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