DAME AGNES WESTON'S ROYAL CHARITY FOR THE NAVAL SERVICE

DAME AGNES WESTON'S ROYAL CHARITY FOR THE NAVAL SERVICE

At a glance

Causes

  • Faith and ethics

Other details

Organisation type: 
Charity
Geographical remit: 
National - Britain

Objectives

The Charity’s stated object, which is for the Public Benefit, is the promotion of the efficiency of the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines and the advancement of the Christian faith. The overarching vision of Aggie’s is that all beneficiaries should be able to ‘live life to its fullest measure ’ which means that they should have physical, emotional and spiritual health, and be living in strong relationships. Aggie’s works in partnership with the Naval Chaplaincy Service and other naval charities to enhance the operational capability of the Royal Navy through the provision of pastoral support to serving members of the Royal Navy (including the Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary), and their families.

Royal Navy units routinely deploy for between six and nine months and the operating tempo remains consistently high. This creates a challenging environment for both the serving personnel and their families at a time when the Royal Navy’s resources for pastoral support are ever more stretched. This leads to separation and loneliness, two of the key stressing factors creating the need for the pastoral support which the charity provides in naval bases, air stations, naval training establishments, Royal Marine units and amongst Service Family Accommodation (SFA) areas. Aims and objectives Through the provision of pastoral support the charity can:

a. Support personnel in training (hence reducing the numbers withdrawn from training);

b. Help people who are experiencing stress (hence reducing the numbers becoming medically non[1]deployable);

c. Support personnel weighed down by family, financial or practical issues (hence restoring their efficiency);

d. Support families through testing times (particularly during lengthy deployments), hence reducing the numbers resigning from the Royal Navy early due to family reasons.

Activities

In meeting the Charity’s Object, Aggie’s works in close cooperation with the Royal Navy and, in particular, with the Naval Chaplaincy Service and the Royal Navy Family and People Support organisation. The main activities which have been undertaken for the public benefit during this financial year are:

Pastoral Workers within Royal Navy establishments. Thirty-one pastoral workers function mostly within Royal Navy establishments, fully integrated into the naval chaplaincy team under the functional authority of the Chaplaincy Team Leader. Their primary role is to provide ‘pastoral support’ – by which we mean that they are there to listen when serving personnel (or their families) need to talk, to encourage, comfort and support. They will also have knowledge of where specialist advice is available should it be required. They do this by being engaged in helpful practical tasks, which places them at the heart of the naval community so they can be available with time to provide a listening ear when it is needed.

Family Support – Aggie’s Community Waves. Teams of Pastoral Workers, badged as Community Waves, provide support to families in the Portsmouth and Plymouth naval base areas, running a program of events in partnership with other organisations such as: Royal Navy Family and People Support, Portsmouth Military Kids, and Military Kids Clubs. These teams deliver a range of activities for toddlers, pre-school aged children, school aged children, parents and spouses (including those without children) in and around SFA in these two regions. They conduct 1:1 sessions when required, collaborate with schools that have high numbers of Service children, and support community events.

Storybook Waves. This project allows personnel who are separated from their families through deployment, courses or long shift patterns to record a bedtime story for their children or family member. This creates a virtual presence of the serving person during periods of physical separation. Storybook Waves has 24 recording centers, including two on board HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales respectively. There are also 42 deployable recording kits across the remainder of the Fleet. Volunteers edit the vocal recording onto a soundtrack, with sound effects, to create a professional CD or MP3 recording which is sent to the child with a hard copy of the book, a Deployment Journal, a Reading Force scrapbook to be filled in during the deployment, a bookmark and a ‘bravery medal’. Experience has shown that young children struggle to understand the separation which comes from long deployments and these recordings are much better for maintaining parental relationships than telephone/video calls. This not only benefits the child and the absent parent, but also provides relief to the parent at home. Crucially, the actual recording process brings a Pastoral Worker or chaplain close to the deploying individual for a period, and thus provides an opportunity to listen to concerns and to make the pastoral role of the charity known amongst the spouses of deployed personnel. The Storybook Waves project also facilitates an associated project running book clubs which has been in operation for a number of years with the financial support of Annington Trust. This seeks to use children’s books as the central theme for social gatherings and is designed with the families of deployed personnel in mind.

Other Activities: Volunteers: Since the easing of COVID restrictions a new population of volunteers has been recruited. Volunteers are tasked based on their skill sets but, in most cases, they will not lead events or lead on pastoral conversations, instead taking on many of the supporting activities so that pastoral workers are freed up to have pastoral conversations and to build relationships with their beneficiaries. The charity currently has 16 volunteers supporting the pastoral workers and 4 volunteer Story Book Waves editors with a further 8 editors being trained. Deployment Journal: A journal was designed and produced in 2021/22 as a supplement to the Storybook Waves project. The child is encouraged to record their activities and feelings during each week of the deployment. There are colouring tasks to complete, post cards to send and maps to update. The concept is to help the child and deployed parent to re-connect once the parent returns home. Force for Change: funding was received in relation to Aggie’s Community Waves to aid development of community support networks in Portsmouth and Plymouth post Covid restrictions being eased.

Current opportunities

Aggie’s is looking for a new trustee with specialist skills in Fundraising to join our Board and help us to achieve our vision. 

Aggie’s is looking for a new trustee with specialist skills in Communications and Marketing to join our Board and help us to achieve our vision...