Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

How The Charlie House Holiday Activities Helps to Make Those Summer Days Less Crazy

The summer term is drawing to a close and before we know it the school summer holidays will be here. This year thousands of children across the North East of Scotland will have seven weeks off school. Many will be looking forward to summer camps, carefree days out with family and friends and perhaps trips away too. However, the long school holidays can be tricky to navigate for the families supported by Charlie House.

“This year the summer holidays are longer than normal and for some parents this will be a concern. We know from talking to the families we support that the parents can struggle to find activities that are suitable for the whole family,” explains Leigh Ryrie, Children and Family Services Manager at Charlie House.

“It’s challenging to find things that the whole family can join in with; this means the summer can become an expensive logistical nightmare of trying to juggle different activities for each family member. Quite simply the parents struggle to find inclusive, accessible, affordable holiday activities for their children and as a result they end up feeling isolated.”

It was the identification of this need that led to the Charlie House activities programme expanding to include holiday activities. Leigh continues, “Some families have attended mainstream activities elsewhere in the past but left early because they felt uncomfortable and judged. Our holiday activities are a chance for them to take part in recreational experiences without this pressure. It’s a chance for them just to be a family having fun and spending time together.

“One of our aims for the activities is to reduce isolation. The activities provide opportunities for families to relax and have fun together and meet other families who can understand their experiences and relate to them. Over time this can lead to new friendships, shared advice and the development of peer support networks.”

The Charlie House holiday activities are organised and facilitated by Beth Hopkins, Charlie House’s Activities Co-ordinator. She adds “Our holiday activities are really popular with the families. Based on feedback from the families we try to provide a mix of new experiences as well as familiar ones. Some of the activities we organise are things that they may never have considered they could do as a family.”

“In fact, one of the activities planned for this summer, a dolphin harbour tour, is back by popular demand. We first ran it in 2019 and it proved extremely popular. Families were amazed that it was even an option for them,” she says. “The movement of the boat combined with the sights, sounds and smells of the sea, and sometimes the odd splash of seawater, makes it a multisensory experience for the whole family.”

“This year we hope to deliver a variety of different activities including pony rides and an ice skating session as well as the dolphin harbour tour. Our holiday sessions are held on different days, at different times and in various locations throughout Aberdeen City and Shire to increase access and engagement. Every activity is fully inclusive and open to the siblings and parents too. Alongside this we will also continue with our online activities including music therapy and pizza making.”

Leigh adds, “The activities we provide as part of our holiday activities are more than just a way to pass the time. They are a chance for the families to do something together while taking a break from their normal caring routine.

“Caring for a child with a life limiting condition is often all consuming and trying to organise anything outwith this can just be too overwhelming. Families can come along to Charlie House holiday actvities safe in the knowledge that everything has been thought of. They can relax knowing that the activity is safe and suitable for their child and that they are with other families who understand their situation. The activities we offer are ‘normal’ family activities that many people take for granted but can seem impossible when you have a child with a life limiting condition. We want to be sure there are no barriers to the families who need our support being able to access it, so all Charlie House activities and services are free to the families who need them. Our holiday activities enable families to enjoy quality time together building precious memories for the future

Beth continues, “The easiest way to show what the holiday activities mean to the families is to let one of the parents tell you themselves. We received the following feedback from a parent after a holiday activity session.”

“We have had the BEST summer holidays! I can't even begin to describe the difference you guys have made to our family. I hope you know just what your hard work means to us. There is a stark difference between our lives before and after Charlie House. I used to dread holidays and how we'd fill the days and weeks. Activities that we can all participate in are few and far between, J* is usually working and I have no childcare for any of my kids. They used to get bored and frustrated and turn into tiny terrors which, in turn, drove me crazy and made me feel like a total failure. Holidays over the last year have been a wonderful mix of fun and exhaustion. We've made so many memories and experienced things we wouldn't have managed on our own. You guys make it so easy for us. We don't even have to plan! No need to make a hundred phone calls to try and find somewhere suitable. No worrying about the facilities available. No worrying about whether the "accessible" label on something is actually accessible. No effort at all! It's amazing going out knowing that we can just have fun together and it's even better to have someone else taking photos when our hands are full of kiddos. I absolutely love spending time with my 3 and I love that you make sure I can focus on them instead of the details. You have given us the gift of carefree fun and it means the world to me! Thank you xx.”

“Quite simply that feedback sums up the importance of the holiday activities. It’s great to hear direct  from the families that the sessions are doing exactly what we want them to and giving the families a break,” concludes Beth.

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