How Scotty’s inspired me: My dream job supporting disabled veterans
On the 12th of September 2003, Heather’s life changed forever. Her dad, Cpl Robin McLachlan, who served in the Royal Logistics Corps, died in a road accident. She was just two years old.
“I don't have many memories of my dad, but I’ve seen loads of photos and my mum is always telling me wonderful stories about him,” says Heather. “One of my favourites is when he was fixing his motorbike and giving me the nuts and bolts to hold, but I kept dropping all the bits down the exhaust pipe. Some people might have found it annoying, but he just thought it was funny. He loved to laugh.”
Now 22, Heather recently graduated Glasgow University with a BEng Honours in Biomedical Engineering and is soon to embark on a career as a clinical rehabilitation engineer with the NHS, creating technology to help people with disabilities navigate the world independently. In particular, Heather is interested in working with injured veterans and service personnel, inspired by her dad and the enormous impact Scotty’s Little Soldiers has had on her growing up as a bereaved military child.
The desire to help people
Heather’s dad had always been fascinated by engineering – a passion that has been passed down to her. As a teenager, she spent two years volunteering at a care home, working with a blind gentleman who relied on GPS systems to navigate his local area. At the same time, seeing the work Scotty’s do with bereaved military children was inspiring her to help people in her own special way.
“My sister Kirsty and I joined Scotty’s quite early on, and being able to so clearly see the benefit one organisation can make made me really want to apply whatever skills I have to a good cause. The fact a big part of my job will involve working with veterans feels quite special to me, since the military and all the stories about my dad have been a prominent part of my life, especially thanks to Scotty’s. My dad always wanted to be an engineer, as well, so even though I’ve forged this path because it’s what I want, it feels like he’s still a very important part of everything I’m doing.”
The power of support
As she’s grown up, Heather’s military connection has been made even stronger through Scotty’s, and she’s had the opportunity to meet hundreds of bereaved military children and young people who have also experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
“I’ve gone to so many events and had so many new experiences through Scotty’s. It’s definitely given me a lot of fond memories. If I wasn’t part of Scotty’s, it would be very rare to meet someone with a similar background to me, but instead I've met so many different people who can all relate to each other. It really means a lot, because all those people understand your struggles and where you’re coming from, and everyone is so supportive. Having all that support has really helped me achieve what I’ve achieved and fulfil a dream I wasn’t sure I’d be able to fulfil.”
Additionally, Heather has been on a number of Scotty’s breaks and attended multiple events with the charity.
“The Scotty breaks are brilliant. Center Parcs is our favourite. We try to go at least once every two years because we just fell in love with it. For me, Scotty breaks are a chance to really switch off from everything going on at home, and there’s not the stress of Mum having to plan everything herself as it’s already been laid out.”
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
As well as making new happy memories with her family and connecting with a community of bereaved military children and young people just like her, Heather has benefited from a number of Scotty’s grants. These grants have a range of uses – from driving lessons to taking part in extracurricular activities and helping towards school costs – and have played a vital role in supporting her education journey and transition to a career she loves.
“One of the most special things Scotty’s have helped me do is complete my gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. My mum and dad met while doing the award and even tied their honeymoon into Mum’s gold DofE presentation. They made a promise that if they had any kids, they’d see them through the programme as well. Growing up, my mum always said you can do whatever you want, have whatever career you want, but you need to do the Duke of Edinburgh Award for Dad. It’s always been a big thing for us.”
Due to a hypermobility condition, however, Heather was unable to complete the hiking expedition required to complete the award. Fortunately, she was able to access Scotty’s Super Grant – a one-off payment of £1000 which must be used to cover or contribute towards a significant once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. With this funding, she was able to take on a gold DofE sailing expedition instead. Heather was on a boat 24 hours a day for ten days straight, and by the end of this time she was able to successfully manage the entire running of the vessel, including cleaning and food preparation.
“The original hike just wasn’t feasible for me, but with Scotty’s help I was able to do this really incredible alternative. I’d only done one day of sailing previously, but it was too good to pass up. I don’t think I could have done it without the charity.”
Scotty’s Little Soldiers impact on Heather’s life and career is huge, but looking back, it’s the friends she made with other bereaved children and young people that really stand out.
“If Scotty’s didn’t exist, the main thing I would miss are all those connections I’ve made with other military families and young people who I've got to know so well. Growing up, especially being a teenager, can be so stressful and sometimes you can start to feel insecure about your experiences and your background. It’s great to have those people from similar experiences and backgrounds to remind you you’re not alone. Schools try to help, but that level of understanding just isn’t always there. Scotty’s means having those friends and those families you can just message and say ‘yeah, we’re not doing the best lately.’ It genuinely can’t be replaced by anything.”
Supporting bereaved military children
Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a charity dedicated to supporting children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.
Inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood.
Scotty’s currently supports over 600 members and services offered include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.
If you know a child or young person who has experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces, they could be eligible for specialist bereavement support from Scotty's Little Soldiers. Hundreds of bereaved military children aren’t getting the support they need but we are here to help.
If you are the parent or carer of a bereaved military child or young person, click here.
If you work with bereaved children & young people, click here.
If you are a bereaved young person seeking support, click here.