Founder of Reading Force, Alison Baverstock, reflects on her long-lasting Forces friendships, the next generation, and a new year’s resolution…
We spent New Year with family friends in France. The original friendship, between us and a couple we met when we were both posted by the Army to Wiltshire, has been maintained by the next generation and we were there with their eldest child, herself a member of the Forces, her friends and our daughter. Everyone in the group of ten had a link with the Military, either currently serving or having grown up as the child of a Serviceperson – and they were all under 30.
The experience reminded me again why I like being with Service people. They tend to be positive, utterly reliable – and generally good company. They know about current events and are up to date on what is happening where (useful on quiz teams). This group were no exception; all were keen to benefit from opportunities within the Forces – and had recent experience of deployment: in Jordan, Kenya, The Falklands and another was about to go to Sudan on a UN peacekeeping mission. They were juggling this with travelling to see partners at weekends and laying down plans for later life – notably where to consider basing themselves in future.
Equally heartening was their curiosity; they were keen to listen to the experiences of others; to learn what they could about other lives and roles. Interestingly their experience before joining the Army had been quite varied; one spending 18 months working for a telecommunications company and another four years as a teacher before deciding to join the Forces.
Of course I took the opportunity to tell them about Reading Force. To date we have sent out over 115,000 reading scrapbooks, all over the world – but none had so far reached them. Although most of our information has gone to families via schools, HIVEs and through units to those with younger children, all around the table could see the benefits of shared reading. It would enable them to keep in touch and track each-others’ thinking during the time between phone calls home and in the process stay in touch with their wider families.
So for 2019 my resolution is to ensure more single serving personnel appreciate how Reading Force can connect everyone in the Forces and their supporting communities, whatever their age. As a starting point I gave a copy of the same book to my son (a former Army child) in Mexico and his veteran father in London – all about cricket. I am pleased to say they are already discussing via Skype and WhatsApp!