To find out more about what support Defence offers young people on a posting overseas, AFF Overseas Manager Esther Thomas met Becky Wakefield, Chief Community Development Officer, Army Welfare Service (AWS)…

Becky Wakefield

Becky says: “Defence employs professional youth work staff to support the wellbeing of children and young people. The UK government’s guidance recognises the importance of time spent outside of school and Community Development Workers (CDWs) in the UK and overseas work to provide that support.”

There are differences in what’s on offer depending on the location. “There are nine CDWs overseas supported by civilians (where budgets and regulations allow) and AWS is constantly looking at new ways to support young people and their families,” she says.

Becky explained that the single services and overseas commands employ specialist professional play, youth and community work staff; train and support community volunteers; and deliver nonpublicly funded contracted projects in partnership with others. Where there are permanent AWS or other CDW staff, they can offer youth work and play work such as:

  • play and youth sessions;
  • work in schools (particularly during periods of deployment and separation);
  • a monthly Defence youth forum activity and/or access to the virtual youth work network and tri-service online youth forum;
  • holiday activities.


Becky added, “We know how important it is for families and young people to feel prepared for an overseas posting. Information is important and so is understanding what it’s going to be like living there.

“Often, living in a community overseas requires coming together with others to organise social activities, to help each other and provide opportunities and activities for children.”


As families move around, they might not be able to access the same youth services. This is especially true in several overseas locations where there are no permanent AWS staff. In such locations volunteers sometimes step up to help deliver youth activities.

Overseas Senior Community Development Worker, Charlie Cook-Wild, is on hand to support them. Charlie says, “Whilst some communities overseas have Community Development staff, many don’t. In Kenya and Nepal, for example, I travel out to support community groups at least once a year, working with the community volunteers and supporting them in person with training and with organising activities.

“We look at safeguarding, planning activities for children safely, running a youth club and parenting support. I also provide the opportunity for volunteers to stay in touch virtually.”

Volunteers support the 110 families and 126 children currently in the British Army Training Unit in Kenya (BATUK), working alongside the welfare team to deliver youth and community services.

There are a range of activities on offer such as Bible club, movie nights, 5k camp runs and day trips. Sarah, who arrived in Kenya seven months ago, said, “We have all settled happily. Family fun days and activities for the children, Saturday park runs, weekly coffee mornings are all a bonus of what is put on for families out here.”


AWS Community Support is currently developing workshops to help prepare partners, parents and young people with some of the knowledge and skills they need to bring people together before arriving in their new location. Look out for AWS pre-posting workshops coming later in 2024.

All locations overseas look to deliver holiday provision for children and young people – SHAPE in Mons has a volunteerrun DJing club and the camp survival skills sessions in Germany are very popular.


One parent said, “Since our arrival in BATUS we experienced a great sense of community. This was evident in the BATUS Ski Day which was inclusive to both beginners and pros. Skiers went over the mountain displaying their skills on steep icy slopes and big bumps. Lessons, food and drinks were freely available to everyone and equipment accessible to all. Throughout the day, the family-friendly atmosphere created a positive and fantastic experience.

“There are also planned movie times for the latest box office release. A varied programme of events is also organised during the holidays, which includes workshops, bowling, sports events and pool activities.

“During the winter months the ice rink is widely used for organised public skating. There is also the opportunity to learn to skate better and play ice hockey for a team or group within the league.”

AWS is running a tri-service Youth Voice survey for eight to 17-year-olds. Have your say here by 31 May:

Related Posts