Henry Okello, Design Officer
It’s not the warmest day when we meet up with Henry. Though fortunately the rain that was forecast has stayed away. For now. It’s fortunate because Henry is keen to meet us not in Haig House, the office where he works, but just around the corner in the Red Cross Garden.
“This is a place where I like to take time away from the office and reflect in it’s beautiful surroundings. But it’s also a place that’s steeped in a lot of history and stories,” Henry says.
He goes on to tell us about why the garden was created – which you can hear in the accompanying podcast – but it’s this interest and fascination in history and stories that plays into a lot of what Henry does at the Legion. As Design Officer, he is part of a team of eight who collaboratively help raise awareness externally of what the Legion does, support internal communications and – perhaps most rewarding of all for Henry – deliver the branding of for some of the most meaningful commemorative events across the country – including the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.
“The Legion’s vision ‘To bring together the nation, communities and individuals to create better futures for our Armed Forces and their families’ is definitely something that speaks to me, that drives my work and that attracted me to the Legion in the first place,” he says.
“But, actually, less than 50% of the UK population know about all the fantastic work the Legion does. So, my biggest aspiration is to continue developing and evolving our brand as a relevant and engaging charity.”
We’ve only be chatting with Henry for five minutes or so, but it’s clear having a sense of purpose behind his work is crucial in terms of his enjoyment.
“As a person it’s rewarding knowing that, at the end of the day, the work I have done has gone some way to improve the lives of servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much for their country. For me personally, it is also some way of giving back. And I enjoy giving back through the skills I have – which is design.”
“To give you an example of that, the Legion and Leeds Beckett University lead a team of 13 serving wounded, injured and sick personnel and veterans on a life-changing expedition in the Himalayas to mark the centenary of the end of WWI. I supported the Battle Back Centre by designing the Mission Himalaya visual identity and branded clothing for those selected to attend the expedition. The outcome of this attracted a fair bit of media attention including an interview on Sky Sunrise with team member Catherine Ruddick, who was medically discharged from the Royal Army Medical Corps due to her mental health.”
As well as being incredibly passionate about his work and the impact it can have, Henry also points out that the social aspect and the sense of collaboration and camaraderie in the Legion also makes this a great place to work.
“At the Legion we put on a lot of events every year and everyone here has the opportunity to get involved in them and I would say most of us do. I’ve been a Poppy Man at our Poppy Run events for instance – cheering on the hundreds of people who turn out to run for us. Like many of us, I’ve also given up weekends to support our mass events teams.”
As the expected rain does eventually begin to fall, this dedication to the cause also brings Henry to his final thought.
“Prior to joining the Legion, I always felt that you needed to have a military background, or an understanding of the military to work here. And what I would say to anyone thinking of joining us is that you don’t. As long as you have a commitment, a passion and a dedication to supporting people – specifically the Armed Forces community – then that’s really all you need.”