For a decade the charity has provided comprehensive support for military veterans with housing and benefits as well as partnering with the NHS to give counselling for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Chairman Robert McCartney, a military PTSD survivor who now counsels others, has noted that Northern Ireland has long been left behind GB, which has multiple such residential centres. He has been campaigning for a veterans centre for NI for years.
“This centre will be the first in the UK to offer our veterans a one stop shop for all their needs as well as offering veterans groups a place of safety to meet and benefit from breakfast and lunch clubs,” he said.
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The centre, which has ten bedrooms, is “an amazing building which was designed as a boutique hotel” he added.
Mr McCartney noted that a £300,000 survey by Ulster University in 2018 revealed that 82% of NI veterans wanted their own centre.
“Well now they have it. It is also down to the Northern Ireland people and our communities to look after the men and women who sacrificed everything to look after us.
“Veterans will be able to avail of the stunning beauty of this hidden gem on the Ards Peninsula where we are offering outdoor pursuits and a veterans breakfast club to operate from.”
The charity offer its usual services from the centre, including advocacy for compensation, pensions and housing, as well as treatment of mental health issues, alcohol abuse, addictions, family issues and separations.
“Now that Beyond the Battlefield have secured this accommodation hopefully none of our veterans will go hungry or have to sleep on the streets of Northern Ireland again,” he added.
Highly skilled volunteers will also provide a wide variety of outdoor pursuits, tailored for all ages and and for those with physical disabilities.
However Mr McCartney said that much work still needs to be done to bring the centre up to standard.
“We are appealing to the good people of Portavogie, Ards Peninsula, individuals and Businesses to Volunteer and help with flooring, painting, kitchen design and the Coffee Shop fit out. However we are already encouraged by the vast support we are already receiving from local people.”
He added: “We would implore anyone in a position to help in any way to do so, be that physically - or if you prefer - to fundraise or donate directly. This centre will belong to every veteran from every service.”
Mr McCartney thanked long term supporters and funders including The Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, the British Forces Broadcasting Service, The Department for Communities, The National Lottery Community Fund, The Veterans` Foundation and Co-Operation Ireland.
He also paid tribute to support from Jim Shannon MP, Ards and North Down Deputy Mayor Robert Adair, many “behind the scenes” DUP members, Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen and Alderman Jimmy Menagh.
• Contact the charity via [email protected] or on 028 91228389.
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