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Bereaved military teenager’s life-changing trip to the Philippines


18-year-old Joshua Kirkham’s dad, LCpl Christopher Bradshaw, died in a road accident when Josh was just six years old. He has been supported by Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved military children and young people, since 2014. Through Scotty’s Super Grant – a one-off, £1000 grant reserved for once-in-a-life-time opportunities – he recently had an unforgettable experience volunteering in the Philippines, where he spent seven weeks on the other side of the world helping children living in poverty.

Josh carrying supplies

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

“My best friend is from the Philippines and hearing him talk about what’s it’s like in those really poor areas is what first made me start thinking about ways I could help,” says Josh. “Volunteering there is something I had been wanting to do for a while, and since I was about to start uni it seemed like the last chance I might have. Scotty’s Super Grant meant all the flights were covered and me and my mum didn’t have to worry about money anywhere near as much as we would have done.” 

Josh was in the Philippines for a total of 53 days – approximately seven weeks.  

“We were working with the Purple Community Fund to help deliver a sports programme to the kids that lived on the dump site where we were based. We created a teaching plan and went through a bunch of different sports and activities, before ending the trip with a tournament between all the kids.  

“We also ran a few extra sessions on topics the kids were interested in. For example, I’m now doing a degree in film, and a lot of the kids hadn’t had much exposure to cinema and wanted to learn more about it, so we did a few sessions on that which I found really enjoyable. My best friend AJ plays the drums, so we also held a music session together, where he taught them about percussion and I ran around being his teaching assistant. It was great to teach the kids about those things we’re really passionate about.”

Josh filming the local area

Learning about the world

During his time volunteering, Josh planned and taught the children on a range of sports and subjects, as well as helping many more volunteers with their own duties. 

“Our football sessions were always really fun and the kids got super competitive. None of them had any shoes or anything like that though, so we had to be careful that people didn’t hurt themselves. I wanted to help however I could, so I also travelled down to help out with the Purple Community Fund’s medical supply programme, working with the doctors there to give out medical supplies and food packets to all the families who need them. Another of my favourite experiences was working with a man called Ronald, who was the filmmaker and media person for the Fund. Together, we spent a few days exploring the local area and getting footage for their YouTube channel. We wanted to show what life was really like over there, so we went to some out the way places and I really learnt a lot about the way people lived and the struggles they faced.”

Josh sorting through clothing donations

The impact of Scotty’s Super Grant

“On one of my last days, when I was saying goodbye to all the kids, they gave me a framed photo of us all to take back with me. They’d put a white border around the photo and had all signed it with their names and left messages. I really didn’t expect it and it’s just a really lovely thing to help me remember all the children and my time with them. 

“It’s sounds cliché, but the whole trip really did put my own life into perspective and change the way I look at the world. I think it would anyone. I appreciate all the things in my own life – things that I never used to even think about – so much more than I used to. I was shocked by the poverty when I first arrived in the Philippines, but because I was there for so long, I sort of acclimatised to it. Then, when I came back to the UK, I felt that shock all over again. I’m really glad I had the chance to do it. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a long time and I definitely couldn’t have done it without Scotty’s.”

Josh wearing his Scotty top

Remembering loved ones at Christmas

In addition to benefiting from the Scotty’s Super Grant, Josh has also attended a number of Scotty events, including respite breaks and our annual Winter Festival.   

“I’ll always remember the first Scotty’s Christmas party I attended. It was in Manchester and I would have been 12 or 13. Scotty’s was still very new to me and the whole experience wasn’t like anything I’d ever been to before. I was quite shy and didn't know what to expect, but it was great. I kind of see that as the point I first started to understand what Scotty’s was about.” 

Josh’s dad, LCpl Christopher Bradshaw, died on the 26th of November 2011. As a result, the Christmas period can be an emotional time for Josh and his family, but Scotty’s are always on hand to offer support whenever he needs it. 

“My dad’s anniversary is in November, so Scotty’s would send me anniversary vouchers and I remember always opening them around the same time as the party. Then a few weeks later it’s Christmas and I’d be sent some gifts from Scotty’s, which I always opened on Christmas Day. That whole period just has lots of associations with Scotty’s for me.”

Josh at Scotty's 2022 Winter Festival

Scotty’s Springboard Council

Scotty’s Springboard council is made up of a group of Scotty’s older members (aged 18-25) who use their insight as bereaved military children and young people to help guide the direction of the charity moving forward. Josh was one of council’s founding members. 

“When the Springboard Council first met up, I wasn’t sure what it would be like, but it was really nice. We’ve all joined the council for similar reasons and I felt like I could just relax. I quickly made some friends and it’s all going really well. We even have a Springboard Council group chat.” 

In April, Josh and the rest of the Springboard Council ventured to London to spend a weekend at Sky HQ, where they were given an insight into the media and entertainment sectors and received training to support them on their mission to become the voice of bereaved military children. 

For Josh, who is studying Film and university, getting a behind-the-scenes look at how a large TV studio operates was an invaluable experience.  

“It was really interesting. A highlight was on the last day, when a couple of filmmakers did a workshop with us where we made a short video about Scotty’s. We filmed it, edited it, everything – and then shared all our videos with each other. It was really cool.”

Josh and the Springboard Council at Sky HQ

Growing up with Scotty’s Little Soldiers

Scotty’s has been an important part of Josh’s life since joining back in 2014. And as Josh has changed, so too has his relationship with Scotty’s. 

“When I was younger, Scotty’s meant there was always something to look forward to, whether that’s holidays or gifts or the Christmas party. Now that I’m older, it’s more about having that helping hand and being able to comfortably step into the adult world. The Strides Programme and all the various grants I’ve been given have really helped out with that. But one thing that’s always stayed the same is that emotional support Scotty provides. Regardless of how old I am, I’ve always known Scotty’s are there if I need them.”

Josh at his first Council meeting

Supporting bereaved military families

Scotty’s Little Soldiers is a military 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 650 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 know a bereaved military child who could benefit from Scotty’s Little Soldiers support, visit our Get Support page for more information.

Josh and his dad


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