Making Memories… Giving Hope

Volunteers' Week: David's Story


David is a long-term supporter of CHICKS, who volunteered on a break and now supports our fundraising team. He's shared his story with us:

I have been a CHICKS supporter for about ten years and when the new Daleside Retreat opened in Derbyshire not far from my home, I decided to go and see how my money was being spent. I was fortunate to join one of the first breaks at Daleside when the paint was just about dry!

Although I have worked with a lot of young people through the Scouts, most were from comfortable backgrounds and I was a little anxious about how I would connect with the children at CHICKS. Like all children meeting strangers for the first time, they were guarded to start with but as soon as they had seen around the retreat and found the games box the fun started – and they wanted to play with us boring grown-ups!

Judging by the noise, energy and excitement, the children were having a great time and I soon realised that I was starting to play without reservation too. The pressure and distractions of adult life slipped away and I was enjoying crawling around on the floor playing games that had not seen the light of day since my own children were younger, or running round a field flying kites – I realised that I was having a holiday too!

One of my abiding concerns about the CHICKS concept was that the children would find the reality of home life after a break even starker when they realised what they were missing out on. However, one of my fellow volunteers had been on a break herself during what she described as a “very dark period” in her life. She confided that the break had shown her that life could be so much better and the memories created a sanctuary to which she could return when times were tough. This was a major turning point in her life and she has since obtained a degree and started work as a care professional. I found this such a moving and uplifting revelation.

Since my break, I have become a CHICKS ambassador and have spoken to a number of community clubs about my experience and this has helped bring alive the excellent work that CHICKS does. I have also encouraged DofE Gold candidates to consider volunteering on a break for the residential part of their award. One young man who did just that had a fantastic time and has had at least one reunion with his fellow volunteers since.

Like any charity, CHICKS relies heavily on financial donations and it is vital that these continue. However, I have discovered that there are many other ways to help and that these can be hugely rewarding – and often humbling – on a personal level. I would certainly encourage all supporters to make contact with their nearest retreat to see how well their money is spent or – better still – volunteer to join a break. You will not regret it!

Find out more about how you can volunteer at CHICKS here.  


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