For many children growing up in poverty, or in deprived inner city areas, the chance to visit the seaside or enjoy days out or is often a distant dream. CHICKS is a national children's charity which provides some of the most disadvantaged children in the UK with free, week-long, respite breaks in the countryside and by the sea. The children we help are aged between eight and 15, and come to us from across the UK.
CHICKS began in 1992 and has grown from helping just 25 children in its first year to now helping 1,200 a year enjoy what is often the first ‘holiday' of their lives. We are one of the leading national providers of this service and, in our 20th anniversary year, are proud to have provided over 10,000 underprivileged children with the chance to escape situations of deprivation or challenging circumstances and benefit from some much needed respite care.
Our aim is to provide children with the chance of a childhood where they can develop some really positive, happy childhood memories no matter how tough things are at home.
Each week eight girls and eight boys from different backgrounds and different parts of the UK come together at either one of our residential retreats on Dartmoor in Devon or the South Coast of Cornwall. The weeks are crammed full of exciting indoor and outdoor activities which are designed to encourage potential, improve confidence whilst most importantly, be fun.
A typical week will include body boarding, swimming, pony trekking, rock climbing, face painting, karaoke and kite flying as well as trips to the beach and theatre. The spacious retreats are equipped with play barns, undercover trampolines, fields to run around in as well as dining areas large enough for everyone to sit down and enjoy home cooked meals together.
The breaks however are much more than the provision of new activities. We purposefully recruit up to eight adult volunteers (4 x female and 4 x male) alongside the three qualified supervisors to support the 16 children on each camp. This ratio of 1:2 ensures that every child is given lots of time and attention and they are encouraged, supported and listened to as much as possible during their stay.
We aim to for the CHICKS experience to continue even after the children have left us. They each take home with them photo compilations, certificates and small gifts as well as FREEPOST envelopes to ensure the children can write to us whenever they wish. As well as responding to every letter, throughout the year the children also receive update letters, birthday cards and individually wrapped Christmas presents to put under their tree.
The children we help
All of the children we support are disadvantaged. They may be young carers; these are children who spend much of their childhoods looking after sick or disabled parents or siblings; they may be one of the 27% of children growing up in poverty today; they may be growing up in single parent, low income families; they may be victims of abuse, neglect, bullying and isolation or they may be witness to drug and or alcohol abuse or domestic violence. Whatever their circumstances these children would otherwise not have a break and are missing out on their childhoods.
In the short term the children leave CHICKS with increased confidence, improved self-esteem and an improved sense of self-worth. Whilst with us they have the opportunity to recognise their own potential, have a greater understanding of their abilities and enjoy being able to take part in something where they feel ‘included'. CHICKS aim is to provide children with a sense of belonging, hope for the future and the tools to build resilience for when times get tough at home. As one child recently wrote "CHICKS was great fun and helped my confidence at home and school".
And as a referrer said: "..the feeling of inclusion, being able to anticipate and then to go on a holiday and to talk about their experiences is hugely important, especially for children who are/and whose families are often socially excluded. The wonderful, often life changing experience is a fabulous opportunity for these increasingly disadvantaged children to participate in what is for many, a main stream regular occurrence". Domestic Violence Worker- Sure Start.
In the long term we know from the correspondence we receive from children after their stay that the breaks are hugely important in helping them form positive childhood memories and giving them hope in the future. Many children come back to CHICKS as volunteers and some have become paid members of staff. Even at adult age many beneficiaries say that their time at CHICKS stands out from what was an otherwise very bleak childhood.
The cost to every child that comes to CHICKS is FREE however the cost to us is £722. This includes everything that a child might need from accommodation, food, travel, fully trained supervision, volunteers, all the activities, aftercare and plenty of ice creams! Each year we need to raise in the region of £1.3million; we receive no government funding and rely solely on voluntary donations.