Our Chairman’s Christmas Message 2019

Season’s’ Greetings from Team HighGround; you can read our Chairman’s Message below. See you in 2020!

This time last year, I was acutely aware that 2019 was likely to be a challenging year for HighGround as we looked to establish fully our Horticultural Therapy operation at DMRC Stanford Hall whilst concurrently consolidating our Rural Week programme at Bicton College, all whilst battling against a difficult backdrop of resource constraint. I am pleased to report that as a result of the amazing efforts of all those who have contributed to HighGround’s efforts throughout the year, we have risen successfully to every challenge and can look back with immense pride on a wonderful year of charitable work.

Jane and Andy have worked tirelessly to fully establish HighGround as a key part of the broader therapeutic services provided at Stanford Hall. Our refurbished greenhouse was formally handed over to us in March this year and is now fully fitted with brand new, custom made, wheelchair-compatible staging. Together with our array of raised beds built during the summer, we are now able to optimise and maximise the therapeutic horticultural care we provide for patients. Since taking over the greenhouse in March 2019, we have provided almost 600 one-to-one Horticultural Therapy sessions and a further almost 40 group sessions. In addition to working hard to integrate and embed themselves fully into the internal Stanford Hall medical community, Jane and Andy have also invested a great deal of time and effort into putting HighGround on the map in the wider local community. In this regard they have been supported tremendously by the ‘Friends of HighGround’ whose efforts to publicise what we do and generate support and funding from both individuals and businesses for our work, remain a vital part of the Team HighGround’s work.

Our Rural Week programme which we deliver in partnership with Bicton College in Devon has continued to go from strength to strength this year. We delivered 8 Rural Weeks at Bicton for 63 serving personnel and veterans from all 3 services – a 23% increase in beneficiary throughput over 2018! Feedback from attendees who ranged in age from 20 to 59, was once again 100% positive! We are hugely grateful to our key funders who allow us to do what we do within the Rural Week programme: Greenwich Hospital, The Soldiers’ Charity, The RAF Benevolent Fund, The Royal Marines Charity and The Royal Foundation. Last year I reported on our unique achievement of having successfully delivering a pilot Rural Week ‘inside the wire’ at HMP Dartmoor for 8 service veterans to assist with their rehabilitation. The initial trial was an outstanding success and we therefore conducted a further ‘proof of concept’ trial in March 2019 for an additional 8 service veteran offenders at HMP Dartmoor. Again, feedback was excellent. The trial results  including formal academic analysis, have now been fed back into the Ministry of Justice. Whilst we await notification of the government’s proposed way ahead (HighGround’s involvement in which will be subject to sourcing new funding which will likely be challenging!), we were delighted to be approached by one ex offender who had participated in the first Dartmoor Prison trial. Now released, this veteran is being assisted by HighGround. His comment that “Your Rural Week changed my life” make all our hard work worthwhile!

Funding remains an enduring challenge and our Board of Trustees is determined that HighGround’s financial foundations should be placed on a wider and firmer footing than has hitherto been the case. We hope to bolster the financial support we gain from individuals and, especially, the corporate sector in order to make us less reliant on established grant and trust-making bodies. This will be our major focus as we march into 2020!

HighGround is a team and all we do is only made possible because of the great people within the team! Anna continues to lead from the front!  Her tireless devotion to the cause and her infectious enthusiasm are an example to all. This year I welcomed a total of 4 new Trustees (Robert, Sue, Alex and Jon) to our Board, all of whom come with energy, ideas and a determination to make a positive difference. The constant team of volunteers who assist us, either at the coalface at Stanford Hall or with administrative functions in our London office do amazing work and I am grateful to them all.

2020 will undoubtedly bring new challenges. However, Team HighGround ends 2019 in great spirit with our proudest year yet of charitable achievement behind us. Ultimately, HighGround continues to be all about using the great outdoors for the betterment of those who serve or those who have served. We are making a huge difference to hundreds of lives. Our journey continues apace; I sincerely wish all our friends and supporters a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Air Commodore (r’td) Ian Elliott OBE,