A former soldier has turned his life around, with help from a charity which supports veterans and their families.
Peter Stewart, from Cramlington, launched a garden and property maintenance business in April, which is going from strength to strength.
But it wasn’t always so positive. After almost a decade in the Army and a tour of Iraq in 2003, he was discharged and his life was turned upside down.
On Civvy Street, Peter took a few different jobs ranging from driving to roofing, but never really settled. For the first time in his career he was claiming benefits, debt was mounting and he turned to alcohol to avoid dealing with the situation in front of him.
He said: “I was gutted that I had let things get in such a mess and I couldn’t see a way out. At my lowest point we lost the family home that my wife and I had worked so hard to buy, I’d landed myself with a criminal record for the way I was handling things and the whole family was walking on egg shells.”
Peter arrived on the doorstep of Finchale – a Durham based charity which provides health, training and work support to veterans and their families – lacking confidence, belief and direction.
His caseworker Tracey Hughes arranged for Peter to talk his plans through with a local employer and Finchale’s CEO, both ex-forces personnel with a good understanding of his situation.
He worked hard on his business plan and approached different organisations that provide financial support to enable him to realise his dream. He finally struck gold by securing a grant to help him buy the equipment and take out the insurances he needed to get the business up and running.
Since starting STEW’s Property Maintenance, Peter’s life has changed for the better.
He said: “There were times when I never thought things would get better and, for me, finding and accepting help was by far the biggest step.
“There are some wonderful organisations out there who provide vital services to individuals such as myself and I would urge others to get in contact.”
It’s never too late to make changes and, with the support of Finchale, I’ve completely transformed my life.”
Andy Wildish, veterans service manager at Finchale, said: “Veterans are often highly skilled and Peter is no exception. We support over 200 veterans and their families each year and understand that no matter how long you have served leaving the military is a big step. It will impact every part of your life from work, to home, lifestyle and identity.
“Peter’s journey has not been straightforward and has required a lot of grit, determination and perseverance on his part but there is no doubt that his history of rigorous training, discipline and a strong work ethic has helped him to make a success of his business. We wish him all the very best with his venture.”