Helping injured and sick ex-service people - Business Works
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Helping injured and sick ex-service people

Melanie Waters, CEO, The Poppy Factory
Melanie Waters (CEO) and Bill Sellick at The Poppy Factory
This year marks the 90th Anniversary of The Poppy Factory, which, nine decades on is still doing exactly what its founder, Major George Howson MC, set out to do – creating employment opportunities for wounded veterans.

Returning from the First World War, Howson was devastated by the thought that the men he had served alongside were arriving home to find that, because of the injuries they sustained as a result of their Service, they were no longer employable. So moved was he that in 1922 he founded The Disabled Society, which later became The Poppy Factory, in order to provide employment for disabled soldiers.

Although much has changed since the 1920s, the fact remains that wounded, injured and sick ex-Service men and women are still facing an uncertain future and coming to terms with a very different career path to that which they had imagined for themselves. What has changed is that the diversity in skills and experiences and the professional aspirations of wounded, injured and sick ex-Service men and women mean that the most appropriate employment opportunities now lie within communities and businesses around the UK. As a result, Howson’s original vision has been expanded.

Major George Howson MC with initial workers
Major George Howson MC (centre front)
with the initial workforce

The Poppy Factory now offers a comprehensive career support package to help wounded, injured and sick ex-Service men and women find and sustain civilian employment. It sources appropriate opportunities for work and seeks to help remove the barriers which might prevent ex-Service men and women from easily accessing the civilian workplace.

"Without The Poppy Factory, I wouldn’t be alive today," says Darryl, ex Royal Engineers, and now a Course Director for the New Horizons Project at West Kent YMCA. "When I came here to work as a Mentor and Trainer 3½ years ago, I hadn’t worked for 12 years," said Darryl. "I couldn’t keep up physically, but here they go with what you can do and don’t expect you to wreck yourself. I now have the confidence to work elsewhere, but I don’t want to. I love this job. I still battle coming here, we can’t change how we are made, but we can adapt to civilian life."

Itself an employer of wounded, injured and sick ex-Service personnel, The Poppy Factory can advise and support employers in how to achieve the best results for both the employee and the employer. The results speak for themselves. Since the expansion of the programme in 2010, The Poppy Factory has supported 156 clients into work and is having a wider impact. Moreover, it is changing the lives of its clients. "I now have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning," says Tony, ex-Royal Tank Regiment.

The Poppy Factory’s current priority is to help 500 wounded, injured and sick ex-Service men and women like Darryl and Tony into work by 2015 and welcomes any support which will help to achieve this goal.

1932 - The Poppy Factory 10th Anniversary
1932 - The Poppy Factory 10th Anniversary

In its 90th year, The Poppy Factory celebrates the fact that the vision of its founder, Major George Howson MC, remains relevant, viable and vibrant for the modern age.

How you and your company can support The Poppy Factory's work

You can support The Poppy Factory in many ways, not only with donations (see below). The Poppy Factory is looking for your support, helping ex-service men and women back into work every day.

"We cannot help wounded, injured and sick ex-Servicemen and women without your support," says Melanie Waters, CEO of The Poppy Factory. "Every penny that you donate to The Poppy Factory will be used to:

  • Ensure that all wounded, injured and sick ex-Service men and women have access to meaningful, paid employment;
  • Boost employment prospects with tailored training and development opportunities;
  • Match employers with clients and ensure a smooth transition for both parties;
  • Part-fund the first year’s salary, where appropriate, providing continued guidance to both the employer and employee."

If you wish to support The Poppy Factory financially, you can donate online at, by telephoning 020 8939 1861 or by sending a cheque to The Poppy Factory, 20 Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 6UR. Corporate supporters can find more information at

You can even support The Poppy Factory when searching the Internet by using this search page - how simple is that?

If you would like to discuss other ways to support, please contact Liz George on

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