Wish Lloyd battled a traumatic childhood, the army, an athletics injury and homelessness to find his place at the Poppy Factory, making the poppies we wear every November.
Wish Lloyd has the kind of life story that could be a novel. After a traumatic childhood in Peckham, he passed his army entry exams with top marks and found his way into the Royal Engineers. ‘I was this streetwise south London boy and, suddenly, I was doing all these different things,’ he reflects. ‘Handling explosives, stripping weapons down in the dark, driving heavy plant vehicles, orienteering and running.’
When he came out of the army, Mr Lloyd sprinted against great athletes such as Kriss Akabusi and Linford Christie, before injury brought his running career to a premature end. He then worked as a telecoms engineer, but, after 28 years in the job, life took another nosedive.
‘I lost my job and money was running low, it was coming up to Christmas, I was sleeping in my car and I couldn’t think how I was going to buy my daughter a present,’ he confesses.
Mr Lloyd’s girlfriend at the time put him in touch with Veterans Aid and STOLL, a charity that helps to house vulnerable veterans. STOLL told him about the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Factory, where he’s worked for the past year, alongside 30 other army veterans with physical and mental-health problems.
The factory’s main function is to produce wreaths and the poppies that we wear each November, while providing veterans with a stepping stone into the workplace.
‘I was very weak, very emotional and in a bad place when I started, but I’m back to my old self again now,’ divulges Mr Lloyd, who’s due to have major heart surgery later this year. ‘Everyone at the factory has supported me and I feel as if I’ve been given a second chance.’
The Poppy Factory was founded in 1922 to offer employment opportunities to wounded soldiers returning from the First World War, creating remembrance products for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal. It provides employment support to disabled veterans across England and Wales. The factory makes approximately 36 million poppies each year. To find out more about the poppy factory, visit www.poppyfactory.org.
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