Making Memories… Giving Hope

A year at CHICKS

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Respite break leader Steve has now worked with us for almost exactly a year. Here, he reflects on his first year being part of the CHICKS family...


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, opined the author Charles Dickens…

Well, I’m not so sure.

To backtrack slightly, at 55yrs old, I had left a 25 year career - latterly in the Child Protection arena - before catching myself on two occasions watching Jeremy Kyle and swiftly concluding that there was more to life than Daytime TV.

But what to do?

Many times I had wished that I had gotten involved in the Child Protection arena sooner in my career, and I was amazed and delighted when, after an internet search, I saw an advert for CHICKS.

My interest was piqued, as I had an inkling of CHICKS work due to a few referrals from previous colleagues, and a web search cemented my interest.

An application to become a respite break leader (RBL) was submitted and I was delighted when I was later accepted for the position.

A year ago, almost to the day, I dutifully turned up at the allotted time and place, full of trepidation, if not naked fear. It was 25 years since my last employment induction, and I was, at times terrified as to whether a leopard could, indeed, change its spots…

In retrospect, I really shouldn't have worried. But isn't that normally the way, when you work yourself up into a frenzy over something that ends up a positive experience.

In the last twelve months, I have received training, updating and information on so many different aspects of the job - communication, law, counselling skills, play, health & safety, minibus driving, and so much more, all delivered in bite size chunks that even an “oldie” like myself didn't struggle with.

Add into that mix the weekly learning experiences for both the children, and I - horse riding, surfing, rock climbing, hiking, to name but a few - and I believe I am experiencing the perfect mix!

And the kids…

Well, this is what it’s all about, isn't it?

I have been amazed at the children. All different ages and backgrounds, with contrasting emotions and feelings, and I have a thousand stories and memories that will stay with me till the day I die.

I recall, specifically, one enlightening episode some months ago, where a child seemed quiet; he was a loner, upset with everything, and despite all efforts by RBLs, and the fabulous volunteers, nothing seemed to be enough to make him happy, or impressed with the efforts.

As I dropped the lad off on the Friday, at Exeter Train Station, I was dreading what he was going to say to his mother, who was picking him up.

I drew the minibus up into the space, noting that his mother was there waiting, and glanced back to the lad in the back of the bus. He was crying his eyes out and as I opened the door of the bus, he ran to his mum, threw his arms round her and blubbed, “Mum, I don't want to leave - thats the best time I’ve ever had!”

Not for the first time, and I suspect, not for the last, I had a lump in my throat the size of a pineapple, as the boy returned to me and gave me a massive cuddle, whilst thanking me for the greatest time of his life. What an effort it took not to let tears flow.

I learnt one of a number of important lessons that day - not to judge books by their covers.

So, here I sit, year into my CHICKS’ experience, and I am still as excited about it as I was the first day I arrived.

To be a member of the CHICKS’ family (because that’s what it is) has turned out to be interesting, informative, exhausting, exhilarating, satisfying, and, above all special.

So, I have to conclude, that Dickens was only half right, for me at least; I have yet to experience “the worst of times”

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