An overseas posting can offer a whole host of new experiences. However, such a significant change in lifestyle can have a considerable effect on young people in Army families. AFF UK & Overseas Director Julie Lowe discovered more…
SUPPORT available for our teenagers and young adults varies immensely amongst the 50-or-so countries where Army families are posted, an important point to consider before making your move.
Dominic Brooks (17), who lives with his family in Mons, Belgium, explained the impact an overseas posting has had on him.
“Compared to the UK, it is difficult to have a normal life socially,” he said. “As well as the obvious language barrier, lack of access to reasonable public transport limits what we can do and where we can go.
“I appreciate that seeing another part of the world is an opportunity, but I do miss out on the normal stuff like going to concerts and learning to drive.”
A couple of the larger overseas locations have some community support in place. Explaining how many young people view a posting to Cyprus, AFF’s WSBA Co-ordinator Rachel Williams said: “Their reaction is similar to anyone else’s – hear Cyprus, think sunshine, then look on a map to see where it actually is!
“Garrison areas offer a wide range of clubs and activities for early teens, and young people get that taste of freedom here.
However, living in a foreign country can present several issues for older teenagers. Training and employment opportunities are limited especially for those not wanting to take A Levels.”
Lynne Everett has recently taken on the role of youth and community officer on the island. She’s planning many exciting things for 0-19 year olds.
“One initiative is the development of youth forums for each station,” said Lynne.
“These will give young people a voice to raise and tackle issues affecting them.
“They will come together to meet as a pan-island forum in November as part of the young people’s ‘celebration of achievement’ event.”
Several young people in Cyprus have also been trained as ‘peer educators’ to work with younger age groups, helping them to establish key life skills.
In Gibraltar, the youth club’s forum is dedicated to helping freshly arrived Service children settle in.
The group meets weekly to share ideas and come up with solutions to problems. “Hopefully we can give new people some top tips for their new life here,” said member Sophia Nelson.
Ready for work
King’s Vocational Hub (KVH) in Germany is a great example of how young people overseas can be supported into the workplace.
It’s based in Gütersloh but students from Bielefeld, Sennelager and Paderborn attend too. KVH supports learners who do not wish to follow traditional academic study and currently has more than 50 enrolled.
Vocational learning opportunities are offered in areas such as business admin, engineering and customer service. Courses can be affected by regimental commitments but there continues to be a wide range on offer.
Chloe Chmiewliski now runs her own salon after successfully completing hair and beauty training.
She said: “After two years I became confident with a pair of scissors and realised I wanted to take my qualifications further. I would never have thought I would be where I am today and I’m glad that the Army community and my family have been so supportive.”
Out and about
One key benefit to young people’s lives overseas is the opportunity to travel and experience different cultures.
Lara Thompson (13) lives with her family in Nanyuki, Kenya, which has its ups and downs.
“I like being able to go on safari,” explained Lara. “Some days I go running with my mum and we see zebra and even mongoose close to our house.
“It’s interesting to see how the local people’s daily lives can be quite different to ours. If I want new clothes, we have to travel three hours to Nairobi or go back to the UK.
“I miss being able to walk out on my own to go and meet friends.”
Travel & allowances
Wherever you’re posted, some generic support is available and AFF has been at the forefront of pressing for change based on your evidence.
For those at boarding school in the UK, six School Children’s Visits are available each year, while 19-23 year olds studying at a full-time, nationally-accredited establishment in the UK get three visits per academic year.
Your family is eligible for three Get You Home (Overseas) journeys in north west Europe and one for the rest of the world.
Young people up to the age of 21 applying for income based Jobseeker’s Allowance on return from overseas are exempt from the three-month residency criteria.
More to be done
AFF will continue to highlight any issues to policy makers as the overseas offer is reviewed.
If you have any concerns about the provision of support for your young people, contact a member of our overseas team – details on page three or www.aff.org.uk