From education to employment

East Sussex College Tutor Completes Sahara Trek

Zoe Carroll, Sport & Public Uniformed Services tutor at East Sussex College Eastbourne, completes a trek across the Sahara to support veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Zoe, from Eastbourne, returned to the UK earlier this month, after a challenging four days in the Sahara Desert, the hottest large land area in the world. Zoe trekked in 28 degrees heat and low humidity, over sand dunes that shifted underfoot.

Zoe was one of eight ‘Band of Sisters’ chosen to go on the trip alongside 30 Help for Heroes fundraisers. The Band of Sisters are wives and partners of veterans who have received help from Combat Stress and Help for Heroes.

“I entered a national draw, where I had to say why I wanted to go on the trek, and was one of the eight selected out of 200 Band of Sisters,” Zoe says about the experience, which started back in October 2018 with a training and respite weekend.

“The Sahara was chosen as the challenging conditions and environment were the nearest to Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning we were really able to visualise what our husbands went through during the time they served in the military,” Zoe continues, “except we weren’t in full gear, and we had the help of native Berbers and their camels on our expedition.”

The hardest part of the trip was being away from her husband and two children, but Zoe wouldn’t have missed the experience for the world. “A highlight of the trip was the last day where we woke at 4.30am to trek and watch the sun rise.”

It was also very emotional, as the Band of Sisters were with fundraisers who, without them, their husbands wouldn’t have had the help and support they needed. The trip also included two beneficiaries, Band of Brothers, who directly benefitted from the charity.

“The one thing we all took away from the trip is that you’re never alone. We stacked up stones – a monument of sorts, to represent the people who have been lost or changed by a military experience. The group shared poems and it was a chance to say thank you to the fundraisers. Help for Heroes is the only charity that I’m aware of who support the family, offering respite for wives and spouses of veterans who suffer from PTSD. Coming from a military family means you’re used to moving around and have no real support unit. The Band of Sisters is good in that respect as we are all going through the same thing and can talk about it and feel supported.”

Zoe, who works alongside Bob Shoesmith at the College, says they want their students to have realistic expectations about a career in the Public Uniformed Services. “We want our students to be informed of the impact a career in the services can have on them. They are rewarding jobs but they do come at a cost and aren’t for everyone. Help for Heroes and Combat Stress makes us aware that it’s ok not to be ok and to be brave and ask for help.”

Combat Stress is a small charity supporting veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Treatment includes a six-week residential programme. Help for Heroes helps support mental health charities, including Combat Stress.

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