Mel Whiteside, is the dedicated SHE Advisor (Safety, Health and Environment) for Episkopi Station. Before moving to Cyprus, he was one of many veterans who received help from SSAFA Branch as a single parent.
Mel worked in the RAF Police for nearly ten years, eventually leaving the military in 1992. He found himself unemployed for the first time and a single father supporting his then 7 year-old son. In search of stability, he decided to move back to the familiarity of his home town, Southampton, only to find that many of his friends had moved away from the area leaving Mel to cope on his own.
To improve his career prospects, Mel took advantage of an employment training scheme and volunteered at a career club helping young people before enrolling on a one year Access Course at his local college to enable him to go to university. His hard work paid off and Mel started a four year university degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University.
As part of his degree, Mel was required to do a placement and he secured a 20 week unpaid position with the Mary Rose Trust in Portsmouth. The Trust agreed for Mel to work from home for 3 days a week, but that still meant a long drive from Southampton to Portsmouth twice a week.
As the placement was unpaid, Mel struggled to cover the cost of petrol and after realising that he couldn’t afford to finish his degree as a single parent, Mel reached out for help and contacted the British Legion, who had previously helped him find a home.
The British Legion put Mel in touch with SSAFA Branch and after meeting Mel and his son, the charity agreed to pay the cost of petrol for the six month period of the degree placement.
After completing his degree, Mel worked in Public Relations, Mel was made redundant in 2000 and decided to apply for a job with the MOD as a Health & Safety Advisor in 2001. Mel credits SSAFA Branch for helping him to get his career back on track and supporting him through a difficult period of his life. He comments:
“The fact that I am here in Cyprus is in part because SSAFA Branch paid for my petrol during those six months and enabled me to finish my degree. The charity was there for me when I didn’t have anywhere else to turn and although a bit of petrol money doesn’t seem like a lot, it made a huge difference to my life. If it wasn’t for that funding, I wouldn’t be where I am today. SSAFA does an excellent job at working behind the scenes, supporting serving and ex-serving personnel in times of need and I’m very appreciative of the charity’s support.”