Alex Reeve-Howarth

Divisional Secretary for SSAFA Salisbury and West Wiltshire South

Alex Reeve-Howarth

Divisional Secretary for SSAFA Salisbury and West Wiltshire South

Former teacher Alex Reeve-Howarth volunteers as Divisional Secretary for SSAFA in Salisbury and West Wiltshire South. As well as working full-time, she manages a team of caseworkers to help serving personnel and veterans in need.

“My role at SSAFA is a management position. We're all volunteers but I manage the caseworkers and the cases that come to us by phone, email or through a referral.

There is a lot of need in our area, amongst different age groups.

“My role is to have a chat with the client and see how we can help them. Sometimes we just need to signpost them to other organisations, but very often they need some financial assistance and then I connect them with one of our caseworkers.

“There is a lot of need in our area, amongst different age groups. We help lots of different people from those people who've just come out of the Forces to those who served in the Second World War, some who may have only served for a short period, to those who served for decades. We help individuals, couples, families. The work we do is extremely varied.

“My Division covers from Salisbury down to Downton on the Hampshire borders and across as far as Somerset. There are 5 divisions within Wiltshire and we have a very large military presence in the area, including anybody who might be serving, veterans, their families and anyone in the Reserves.

“The case load varies quite a lot. During lockdown it was quieter, but generally we have around eight to ten cases on the go, which are spread out among our eight caseworkers. Some are very experienced, some are fairly new, and we make sure we share knowledge and mentor the less experienced volunteers.

It's a very humbling experience.

“My favourite things about the role are, being able to build up our team of volunteers and helping them to develop confidence to take on cases, and also, picking up a phone to a client to say, 'Hi, this is Alex. I'm from SSAFA, how can we help you?' It's a very humbling experience.

“It's very humbling as well to know that we can make a difference to people's lives in small ways”

“I was a teacher until very recently. I've lived in Salisbury for more than 20 years, and obviously I was very aware of the military community that comes and goes, working with children whose parents are moving around a great deal. I decided I wanted to give something back to our serving members of the Armed Forces and also to those who are veterans. I happened to speak to a friend of a friend about her role at SSAFA as a caseworkers and mentor. She told me about what I could do with SSAFA and I decided to get involved.

“I think there's a nurturing, pastoral side to teaching that goes hand in hand with the skills you need to volunteer for SSAFA. Ultimately you want to make a difference. You need empathy, you need good communication and listening skills, and you need to be organised and methodical about your work. These are all things I learnt in my working life.

“It is hugely rewarding working for SSAFA. Even if I’m just making a friendly phone call to say to one of our cases, 'How are you doing? How are you getting on now? Is there anything else we can help you with?' It's just a very satisfying thing to be able to do. Just spending a little bit of your own free time on somebody who actually needs you is great.

“It's very humbling as well to know that we can make a difference to people's lives in small ways. Yes, I'm very proud to work with SSAFA.

“To any veteran who needs support, don't think twice about contacting us. If you've served, even if just for a day, SSAFA is there to help you.”

“It is possible to volunteer for SSAFA even if you work”

“I really enjoy my role as a Divisional Secretary. You need to be organised, you need to be good at time-management. I work full-time, so knowing when to delegate and not feeling like you've got to do it all yourself is important.

“We're a really tight knit team in our division. Everybody helps everybody else out. Sometimes people need to take a bit of time out, so we obviously are really happy to accommodate that. I have a great Deputy Divisional Secretary called David and he helps me out a lot. There's always somebody at the end of a phone line at the central office in London too if I ever need advice.

“It is possible to volunteer for SSAFA even if you work. To be a caseworker, you probably need two or three hours free a week. You can take one case at a time. It’s up to you. For people who have more time on their hands, then they can take on two or three cases at a time. It depends on the complexity of the cases as well. Every case is completely different.

You don’t have to come from a military background

“We're always looking for volunteers. There are lots of different roles that people can play in SSAFA so we not only have case workers and divisional secretaries like myself, we're also looking for treasurers, mentors, visitors, fundraisers and people who will work with the veteran population in prison.

“You don’t have to come from a military background. I don’t. Anybody from any walk of life is always welcome to come and find out more about SSAFA, what we do and how they could make a difference and help.

“Research us and chat to some volunteers to see if it is something you might want to do.”