Longstanding friends of the Fund, the Red Arrows, have been helping us keep in touch with lonely and isolated veterans. Whilst Cpl Dan Sargent joined our Telephone Friendship Groups, Cpl Ollie Kirk has been regularly calling veteran Reg Lawrence. As Volunteers' Week draws to a close, we caught up with Ollie to find out about his time volunteering with us.
Having joined the RAF in 2009, Ollie's career has so far seen him work on Typhoon fast jets and undertake operational tours overseas with 11 Squadron. For 2020, 28-year-old Ollie is Circus 5 – one of the handpicked technicians who form the 'Circus', the travelling support team who service the Hawk jets which the Red Arrows fly.
"Everyone knows about the great work the RAF Benevolent Fund does for serving personnel, but I never had the time to give something back," Ollie explained. "With the Covid-19 lockdown however, I wanted to do something outside of work, and chatting with Reg has been fantastic."
The Fund has supported 87-year-old Reg Lawrence, who served in the RAF from 1951 to 1954, in a number of ways, including providing ways for him to overcome isolation and loneliness.
Ollie continued: "My weekly calls with Reg are so enjoyable - half an hour can easily turn into an hour and a half! It feels really natural, not like an appointment in my diary - we're like two old friends catching up."
With Reg shielding at home in his apartment, Ollie knows just how much the calls mean to both of them. He explained: "For me, I love listening about when he served in the RAF – the stories he has to tell! But it's not just the RAF connection, Reg is really knowledgeable, and we can talk about anything – fishing, gardening, you name it!"
"I know that Reg can feel quite lonely and so it's nice to know that I can be there for him, especially as he can't have anyone else around. And with no family, it's nice to be that missing family member."
And Reg agreed: "I really do look forward to my calls with Ollie," he commented. "It's a pleasure talking to him about the RAF, what he's been up to with the Reds, everything. It's one of the most enjoyable parts of my week – thank you Ollie."
Ollie concluded: "To know the happiness you can give, just by giving someone a call - it can make all the difference."
"I really look forward to talking to Reg next. Volunteering for the Fund is definitely something I would recommend – it's been brilliant to give something back to those that served and make them feel a part of the RAF Family."