At the end of August, The Not Forgotten took a group of five veterans, their partners and two veteran friends to the idyllic ‘Maison 10’ in France, where they enjoyed a wonderful week of respite and escape: cycling, swimming, and relaxing.
Maison 10 is a beautiful home-from-home owned by one of our Trustees, Simon, and his wife Sarah, who generously invite us to bring groups of veterans for week-long respite breaks. We started doing this is 2019; Covid then prevented us in 2020 and 2021 so we have been delighted to visit twice this year to make up for it.
The house sits at the top of a town called Nyons. A truly peaceful and tranquil place, it works its magic from the moment the veterans arrive. Simon and Sarah are wonderful hosts who go out of their way to make the week a very happy one, and we are also supported by two veteran volunteers, Dale and Johnnie, who help in the kitchen preparing the meals.
Spending a week at Maison 10, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine, gives veterans an opportunity to escape their troubles and struggles at home. They all invariably return home with their spirits lifted; refreshed and invigorated to take on the challenges life brings.
It is equally important for the partners of veterans to get together and meet others in a similar position, as many of them feel isolated at home with a veteran who is struggling. During our week’s stay it was wonderful to see the partners taking off for walks each day, leaving the veterans to sit and chat together about their shared experiences in service life.
As well as relaxing at the house, we take the group on an electric bike ride up into the hills surrounding Nyons; there are wine tasting opportunities, a fabulous market in the town, and massages are available.
For one of our guests this week, the bike ride was the most challenging activity he has undertaken since his illness 10 years ago. With the support of the veterans around him he overcame his doubts and managed it – and had a smile on his face the whole way round! It is moments like this that make our respite breaks really special.
And the impact continues well after we return home. Friends have been made for life; the groups keep in touch which continues to benefit them all enormously, reducing those feelings of isolation.
One of our guests told us after their visit:
“Thank you for the most incredible experience at Maison 10. We have made lifelong friends. To watch my husband with like-minded people who understand what each other have been through was amazing. And for me it was nice to have time to relax and not worry. We experienced things we would never have a chance to. I have a different husband now – he said he feels ‘normal’. What an incredible experience – you change peoples’ lives and we can’t ever thank any of you enough.”