For Pat Macmillan, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s help is the difference between enjoying her retirement and constantly worrying.
In her own words: "The assistance I receive has literally transformed my life - it is the difference between managing financially and not. Simple as that. You can imagine, then, that it has also relieved me of so much worry.
"Being free from that worry means I can concentrate on repaying the kindness - I volunteer with Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland as a Befriender and also in their office so I repay the deed in time as opposed to money. Before that I volunteered with Highland Hospice for 10 years. It feels good – the Fund’s financial assistance to me gives me the strength to help others with their needs and combat their loneliness."
This month, the RAF Benevolent Fund, the RAF’s leading welfare charity, is launching a campaign to find more people in need of help so it can continue to make a difference in the lives of as many members of the RAF family as possible. The Fund’s latest Reaching Out campaign is focussed on finding veterans and their dependents living in Scotland, particularly around the RAF Lossiemouth and former RAF Leuchars stations.
Pat’s late husband Iain completed two years’ National Service with the RAF during the 1950s working as an accountant. Pat, who lives in Inverness, says his years with the air force were some of the happiest of his life and the ethos of hard work and travel was something which stayed with him for life.
She added: "He kept in touch with two friends who became lifelong pals. Because Iain had such a happy time doing his national service that made me say to myself I am going to ask, I am going to do it. His RAF service all seems so long ago which, of course, makes it such an amazing thing that I am now being looked after as part of his special forces family."
Like many older people, the decision to ask for help was not an easy one for Pat, indeed it was three years after spotting an advert in a magazine that she finally sought help from the RAF Benevolent Fund and was visited by a Royal Air Forces Association caseworker who helped Pat apply to the Fund.
Pat explained: "I am a very proud woman and I have always paid my way but I needed help and the Fund was there when I needed it. Since I took the decision to ask for help I was met only with non-judgemental kindness. No-one criticised me. They could not have been kinder. Everybody I have had dealings with has been an absolute sweetheart. They have been really kind and understanding."
In addition to the assistance provided to Pat, the RAF Benevolent Fund helps with a range of issues including financial assistance with things like top-up fees for a dignified retirement, help to fund domiciliary care, providing mobility aids or advice and advocacy. The Fund’s new Individual Support Service addresses the needs of the RAF Family head on, providing tailored assistance to the vulnerable, isolated or bereaved.
Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "Too often, RAF veterans simply don’t know that help is at hand. Sometimes they think that their years in National Service weren’t enough to be eligible for consideration, that there is always someone more deserving than them, or they don’t want to trouble anyone with their problems.
"But the message of our campaign is simple: If you or your partner were in the RAF and are in financial need, or you need advice and guidance, we will try to help."
If you know of someone who might be in need of some help, please do get in touch. For more information, please call 0800 169 2400 or visit our website at www.rafbf.org/help