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F e a t u r e s

Connor and Amy

of the families had faced bereavement merely weeks before the holiday and were unsure of their commitment to attend. They need not had worried, FAB offers a chance to relax and have fun, with no expectations, no questions and a safe supportive environment with others who face similar day to day challenges. To play a part in that as a volunteer is just FABulous and I’ll be volunteering for as long as they’ll have me!

Amanda’s Story When my visiting officer first told us about FAB Activity Camp I never thought it was something I’d ever do, as a holiday with that title would usually fill me with dread. However, when we found out more about it and realised there were other options than just the active side I thought we’d give it a go- after all we could always leave if we hated it.

From the moment we got there though that thought never entered my head again and it was a different family that left the hostel, with tears, as we didn’t want the week to end. It really was a ‘money couldn’t buy’ experience and I think it did more for us than any amount of counselling could have ever done.

We found somewhere where we could feel like a normal family again with people who understand as they’re going through the same awful experience, but that gave us a bond and hopefully lasting friendships so we can continue to support each other as we did that week.


FAB is a non-public funded, tri-Service initiative in partnership with the Youth Hostel Association (YHA).

Background. The MoD ran a pilot holiday in 2009 in response to a request for more support for bereaved Service families, in particular those with young children.

Aims. To provide bereaved military families with an adventurous yet safe environment to encouraging self-confidence, resilience and peer support whilst having fun. FAB reinforces or re-establishes the relationship between the military community and bereaved family in the aftermath of their loss.

Eligibility. Any bereaved family where a child under 19yrs has suffered the loss of a serving loved one (cause of death is not relevant). They could be the children/siblings/cousins/nieces or nephews of the deceased.

Cost. A FAB holiday to the family, regardless of the size is £50. The remainder is funded by Service charities.

Volunteers. FAB relies on volunteers from the Services and MoD. Without them FAB would not run.

To find out more go to: Envoy Winter 2010 23

Red Devils

Just to meet widows my age was so helpful, as we are always thought of as old ladies who have raised their children but we’re suddenly left with grieving children to raise alone, and to spend time with people in the same situation was invaluable, to realise you’re not alone and that the other mums feel guilty they can’t split themselves into two parents, and that you’re not a terrible mum when you still shout at your children after all they’ve been through.

We sat and shared our stories, we cried and laughed together. But it was definitely not a sad week and to look at us on our days out, or sitting sharing a bottle of wine at night, I don’t think you could have guessed why we where there. I know we raised a few curious eyebrows as we wandered around Flamingo Land in our bright orange t-shirts – but what a fantastic feeling it was to be part of such an amazing group. You could also see this in the children, too, to be able to play with and talk to other children who had also lost their dads, other children who understood, it was wonderful to see my daughter smile again and make friends and my son talk to people about his dad. And what an amazing feeling to hear your children laugh out loud again.

As soon as we arrived the amazing volunteers put us at ease, they sat with us at dinner time to fill the dreaded empty chair. They tirelessly entertained the children, to make sure mums got a break too. They listened to our stories

On Five Live

with interest and were such amazing supports, they really could not have done more, nothing was too much trouble. It was the first time I’d really relaxed as I didn’t feel like I was putting on anybody as you can feel at home.

Watching the Red Devils playing football with the children was amazing and such a fantastic way to keep the military in the children’s lives and show them their dads are not forgotten, their father’s were amazing people who they can be very proud to call their dad.

From the moment we arrived we were busy, and I was quite proud of myself as I canoed down the River Esk with my children, an activity I’d have left to dad before. But we all encouraged each other through the activities even though some days my daughter and I simply went to the beach with a group while my son went bike riding and tree climbing with others.

We arrived a sad, broken family who’d lost their smiles, and laughed our way through a week of fun. I went from someone who had lost all her confidence to going on live radio, and the last night when we all celebrated our week, showed how far we’d all come and gave us a glimpse of hope for a future.

We made amazing friends and fantastic memories which I didn’t think we’d ever do again. It was truly a FAB week. 

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