Nine-year-old Shannon’s father has a long-standing mental health problem which means he can’t work or leave their two-bed flat by himself. Her mother is the main carer, but suffers from stress and joint problems, so the family must manage on Shannon’s father’s disability living allowance. Even if the family could leave the flat, there is no way they could afford a holiday.
As a result Shannon is withdrawn, anxious, fearful of trying out new things and found it difficult to make friends – at least until her teacher referred her to CCHF All About Kids. The charity, based in the heart of the Sussex Downs and 20 minutes from the south coast, paid for Shannon to enjoy an activity week at their centre in Hassocks.
“Shannon has benefited hugely from this camp – she has gone from being shy, lacking in energy and confidence, to making friends easily, joining in with and enjoying every activity,” says a volunteer who spent the week with Shannon. “It was a pleasure to watch her grow in confidence.”
CCHF All About Kids, which is 100% funded by voluntary donations, was founded in the late 1800s as the Children’s Country Holidays Fund, and helped more than 2 million disadvantaged children in its 125-year history by providing a range of residential activity and respite breaks.
In the 1930s, author AA Milne helped raise £6,000 for the charity (more than £250,000 in today’s money), while CCHF was asked by the charity WRVS to assist with the evacuation of London’s children during the Blitz.
Today, CCHF says there are more than 600,000 children living with poverty, abuse, isolation and depravation at any one time in London – recent reductions to the child tax credit and the working tax credit for lone parents won’t help. It means many inner-city familes are struggling to afford the basics, let alone a holiday for their children. Andrew Cartwright, chairman of CCHF All About Kids, says school holidays can add to the financial burden on parents as they have to find the money for childcare and larger food bills.
“Despite all the apparent prosperity in our society, the need for our services to help young children is no less today than when we were established in 1884,” Cartwright says. “The difficulties and lack of opportunities for so many children in the busy parts of our cities is still a huge problem that has not gone away.”
During an activity break with CCHF, chlidren can enjoy a range of activities including swimming in natural outdoor pools, kite-flying, and “Weaseling”, which involves climbing under and over rocks. But it costs £301 for one child to have an action packed six-day residential break, while £150 is needed to recruit and train each new volunteer to look after the children (for every four children who attend the charity needs at least one volunteer).
“Our teams are committed to bringing enjoyment and encouragement to a growing number of children, and to seeing how it can have a long-term positive impact on their lives,” Cartwright says. “It makes a tremendous difference.”
The 700+ children who enjoyed a welcome break from home life during 2011 would no doubt agree. But CCHF says it needs volunteers as well as donations to help reach the £700,000 it costs each year to run its services, and welcomes readers getting in touch to offer help.
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