Project Semaphore is a Royal Naval Association (RNA) initiative funded by the Aged Veterans Fund, to address the issue of digital isolation in older Veterans, which exacerbates loneliness and poverty.
Whilst we provide iPads, it is not an IT Project: it is a Project to provide friendship, support and practical help, with the outcome of better spiritual and mental health. A recent study equated loneliness in the elderly to the effect of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Shipmates who qualify for an iPad can make new friends, learn new skills and connect with their family and friends. Project Semaphore has been a huge success, to date, we have issued over 550 devices and the Project is ongoing. Mindful that many Veterans have a fear of technology, they feel overwhelmed at the idea of learning new skills, worry about their personal security and need help and support to realise the benefits of the financial savings offered online. Whilst an iPad is ideal, as it is lightweight and portable, they fear of breaking it by pushing the wrong button and therefore the support of our dedicated (and very patient!) Volunteers has been key to provide reassurance and encouragement.
We support Shipmates in their homes if they are unable to join a group or attend a Workshop, we cover the country from Inverness, Douglas IOM, Limavady and Holyhead, Liverpool to York, Kent, Plymouth and Cornwall.
The I-pad is a godsend for me, on New Year’s Day, put a message on Raleigh Facebook page and had 248 responses. I talk to an old buddy every day, he is 86 I am a young sprig I am only 83. I also read the news from RNA Central Office.
The Royal Star and Garter Homes (Surbiton and Solihull), Pembroke House (Kent), The Royal Alfred Seafarer’s Society (Surrey) have embraced the opportunity to offer iPads to their eligible Veterans to enhance the activities they deliver. Addressing isolation from families, as well as offering the opportunity to explore or develop interests and hobbies including photography, games, researching ships, naval and family history has proved most popular and improved the quality of family visits, sharing images and stories on the iPad and learning from IT savvy children and grandchildren!
In order to reach Veterans, we are delighted that our Project has been embraced by a range of organisation who offer complimentary support and include: The Royal Navy’s Chaplain of the Fleet, Scottish War Blinded, Royal British Legion Industries, SSAFA, Marine Society and Sea Cadets, Apple Southampton, Association of Wrens, The Fleet Air Arm Association, WRNS BT, Merchant Navy Association, Bulwark, Albion & Centaur Association, RNA Welfare Officers, RNBT, Conference of Naval Associations (CONA), Royal Marines Association, Dementia UK, Improving Lives Plymouth, Cornwall Rural Community Charity as well as numerous RNA Branches who have promoted the Project, hosted Workshops and presentations.
..a whole new way of being in contact with friends and Navy, I would not have known about. I wonder what I did without it.
Further funding and support
We are delighted that RNRMC, Irish ex-Service Trust, Navy News, Greenwich Hospital and Royal Naval Reserves have recognised the complexity of this Project and provided financial and practical support in order that we can maintain momentum. Thank you.
We maintain regular contact with our ‘A Team’ of Volunteers, to express our thanks for their time and dedication…we couldn’t deliver this Project without them! We share iPad tips and tricks and include their experiences and feedback to ensure our Workshops are relevant and pitched at the correct level. Volunteers provide advice and support both face to face, and online using secure and user-friendly technology: Facetime and Skype provide a window on the world, and it is a joy to watch arthritic fingers getting to grips with the concept of a touch screen.
We welcome IT savvy Volunteers who are willing to share their knowledge and contribute to changing the lives of fellow Veterans, we pay traveling expenses and in return Volunteers gain a sense of purpose, pride and the opportunity to impart their knowledge in a safe environment with like-minded people.
Other service Veterans
In the early stages of the Project, offering iPads in groups and in particular Care Homes to RN and RM Veterans only was divisive. However due to the success of the Project, the offer now extends to RAF and Army candidates who are part of a Veterans group. First to embrace this opportunity is the Princess Marina House, a centre in Rustington offering respite, care breaks for serving and former RAF personnel as well as a lunch club for Veterans.
The iPads are delivered to myself and I spend time unpacking and charging them ready to deliver them or some cases members have collect iPads from my home. The iPadder’s meet up an hour before our monthly Branch Meeting, this has been very successful. Yes, we have head scratching moments but with the help of other we succeed those who come include Veterans who are not RNA which is very pleasing. We often spend a couple of hours setting up and sorting issues out, I have also visited homes of shipmates to help. It’s good to see 95 and 96 years young members using the iPads. Yes, I think the Semaphore Project is excellent, to see those smiling faces when they have taken a photo and sent it onto family and friend abroad and received a reply. For me, to receive an email of thanks from a family member of an iPadder is very pleasing.
Captain Paul Quinn RN (Retd)
The Royal Naval Association General Secretary said “Digitally isolated Veterans are blind to and invisible to the digital world. Bringing someone online is like throwing the curtains back in a dark room. Without doubt this is the project I have been involved with that has the biggest impact on individuals – I am so proud to be part of it”.
Please get in touch for more information, to clarify the eligibility criteria, request an Application Form
or to Volunteer: firstname.lastname@example.org