Hi, my name is Paul Smith-Allen. I have been an official volunteer for Help for Heroes for about 9 years.
My story? well maybe a little different from most other volunteers. I did not serve in the Armed Forces (though, I really wish that it had been identified to me as an option when I left school at 16 many moons ago!) nor do I come from what you’d call a military family.
For me, the story begins back in 2012. I had just been made redundant from a senior management job in Central London, and I just never saw it coming. Shocked just doesn’t cover it. At the age of 52, I found myself out of work for the first time in my life. Applying for new roles over the next few months was dispiriting. At the same time, I was going through a difficult time in my personal life, and in short, was at very low ebb.
Then one day in 2013, while I was glued to the computer applying for yet another role that I wasn’t going to get, a flyer dropped through the letter box. It said ‘Help for Heroes are opening a new retail store at Thurrock Lakeside, and are looking for volunteers’. I was already aware of the charity and had taken part in a fund raising event, but this was something new, something close to where I live, and for the first time in months, I felt excited. So, I called the number, and ended up being interviewed over the phone by Rhys Edwards who had successfully launched the first retail store in Cardiff.
Before I knew it, I’m doing shifts in the store, and doing all sorts of things ranging from sweeping the floor, through stock taking, and of course serving the customers. I loved it! I eventually found a new job, but I continued to work in the store at the weekend. You see, I’d begun to realise that I needed the charity more than the charity needed me.
Of course the stores are now long gone, but the fight goes on. I have taken part in 6 Big Battlefield Bike Rides and I’m looking forward to the next one. I fund raise whenever I can.
Over the years I have met some truly amazing people, and I am very proud to do my bit for ‘the blokes’
So, the message here is that Help for Heroes can help people in all sorts of ways. It came into my life when I was in a very bad place, and needed a new focus. It got me through a bad time and I will never forget that.