Summer can be a challenge for families and our recent poll highlighted that families across the country struggle with the costs of food and entertainment. As difficult as these issues are we can help families come together and Make Happy Memories through the work of our services. Here’s a snapshot of us doing just that with families enjoying our summer holiday and food provision.
It’s been raining since early morning.
The thick downpour has submerged the playground of High Clarence Primary School in Port Clarence, Middlesborough, and a driving wind whips the groundwater into coiling, snake like patterns as people rush towards the door with their hoods up.
It’s miserable, and far from what you might expect from a summer club!
And you feel that way RIGHT up until you open the door on the room where Family Action’s Holidays and Food (HAF) summer club is running.
Inside, happy parents and happier children create a cheerful hum as they chat about this and that over breakfast.
It’s a friendly, communal vibe that lasts all day.
Among those in attendance are school headteacher Nicola.
She’s not here in a formal capacity – she just wants to help out, so she’s assisting the staff with unloading the donations of food from a local Tesco’s and the Warburton’s factory nearby. Her desire to get involved is driven by a deep sense of connection with the families here as many of the children have either attended the school or have members of their families that have attended in the past.
Port Clarence isn’t a wealthy area, and the sessions are for families in receipt of universal credit and free school meals, but Nicola says that discussing the HAF summer club in this way misses the point:
She says: “There’s a perception of Port Clarence as a rough area by some people, but it’s really not… It’s very much a community hub”.
“A lot of families struggle here but they are working to help each other, and it’s really nice to see”.
“A lot of families struggle here but they are working to help each other, and it’s really nice to see”
The tight knit community feel is easy to spot in the room as parents watch out for, comfort and entertain each other’s children, but for parent Kerry the sessions still create new opportunities for support.
She said: “We’re a small community – so I know everyone here – BUT it makes a difference seeing people in a different context, where we can share family time and information.
“We never find ourselves in the situation where we get together with other families and their kids really, other than here.”
“This provision is good as you can attend as well as your kids; sometimes as a parent you want to see what your children are doing or get involved yourself”.
It’s a statement she might later have come to regret as she’s dragged into the range of activities on offer – including arts and crafts, boxing and ball games by local business Serenity Sports and games based around a giant parachute, which inspires screams of delight as it’s unfurled.
When the weather improves later that week the sessions will also host outdoor play activities and a trip out to a local wood – an important aspect for a community that can sometimes feel quite isolated.
Family Action’s Volunteer & Community Engagement Practitioner Tracey says the sessions – which utilise government funding for holiday and food provision – are fully booked and, what’s more, have been booked up for months.
She adds: “during our Easter holiday club run at a local farm, we had asylum seekers attend who’d never been to a farm full stop and they asked me “excuse me… but is that a sheep?”!”
Lack of public transport
As heartwarming as that sounds the community can feel cut off from the surrounding area, and transport is an issue raised by attendees time and again.
“If this wasn’t on, my kids would just be at home doing nothing”
Mum Leanne said: “If this wasn’t on, my kids would just be at home doing nothing as we have one small park here and two shops and a doctor’s surgery that’s open two days a week… so there’s really not much here.
You don’t have a bus to Billingham… The only bus is the one to Middlesbrough, so there’s a lot of pressure when the school holidays start and it’s a strain on the family due to the money required.
“I know a couple of people where the only hot, nutritious meal their children get is at school so this is great for those families so at least their children can have something”.
Our Food Programmes are established in response to the needs of the communities we support, and we’re always trying to ensure that more families have access to good food, entertainment and support. Find out more about our Make Happy Memories campaign and FOOD services.