Making Memories… Giving Hope

First breaks of the year!


On Monday, we welcomed the first children of the year to our Moorland and Coastal retreats. This is always a very exciting week for us, as the retreats seem almost eerily quiet over the winter months. Our breaks ended in November last year – excluding the special Christmas breaks – and return in half term.

This gap in breaks means that our respite break leaders, who work hard to ensure the safety, security and happiness of children every week, can have some well-deserved time off, before returning in February for two weeks of training.

This week’s break saw the start of our new age ranges. Previously, the children came in groups aged either 8 – 11 or 12 – 15. This year, the breaks are divided into key stage groups (KS2 = 8-11 at primary school, KS3 = 11 – 13 at secondary school and KS4 = 14 – 15). This means the children will be at more similar stages of development, and will find it easier to relate to one another. It also means that CHICKS staff can plan the breaks better, ensuring there are age appropriate activities.

This week’s KS2 break at Moorland (in Devon) had a brilliant week, with lots of activities, arts and crafts, and a trip up to Brentor church to make the most of the February sun. On the climb up to the church, there were lots of icy puddles and the children thoroughly enjoyed jumping on them in their wellies, breaking the ice. Respite break leader Oly commented: “This was a first for the majority of the group and I have no doubt that will be a lasting memory for many of them!”

There were two birthdays celebrated on the Moorland break as well, making the week extra special (and cake filled)! 

One of the children who really benefitted from their break was 8-year-old Lucy*:

8-year-old Lucy, from Basingstoke, had a difficult Christmas. Her mum is dependent on cannabis, and rarely gets out of bed, leaving Lucy to look after herself the majority of the time. Over the festive season, Lucy was stuck in the house and didn’t have the chance to play with friends or take part in activities.

In the past, Lucy witnessed domestic violence and she has been a victim of emotional abuse, as her mum speaks to her very negatively and will often shout aggressively. This has left Lucy with very little confidence, and her social worker felt that she would really benefit from a break away, with the chance to make new friends.

Lucy was initially very shy when she came to CHICKS, but soon settled into the group and made new friends. She absolutely thrived off attention from adults, and grew in confidence with support from the volunteers. This support gave her the courage to challenge herself in activities, and she was really proud of herself after rock climbing: “I got to the top of the (climbing) wall twice, I beat my fears!”

The KS4 group at Coastal (in Cornwall) also had an action packed week, trying kayaking and canoeing at the Mount Batten Centre in Plymouth, going on a trip to the beach, horse riding and trying their hand at some baking! Antony*, aged 13, from Birmingham, said: “I want to come again, it’s nice to have time to myself; I have 7 brothers and sisters.”

This week marks the start of a year filled with 80 breaks, taking place across our three retreats. In order to provide this, we need to raise £1.8 million and will need the support of over 400 volunteers. Find out how you can support us here.

*Names changed to protect identity

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