This summer sees Leicester Children’s Holidays celebrate its 125th year, making it one of the county’s oldest charities.
Over the years, the organisation has helped over 60,000 disadvantaged children to take a break from the challenges they face in their young lives, by providing them with free holidays.
Last year, it took 83 youngsters to Norfolk, where many were given the chance to be children again for the first time in a long time, says Nichola Moore, CEO of the charity.
“All of the children we support face challenges, whether that’s living in poverty, facing bereavement, or being a young carer for a family member,” she explained.
“Many have got stresses and strains at home that a child shouldn’t really have, but by going away with the charity they get a chance to just fully immerse themselves in childhood, which is fantastic to see.”
Leicester Children’s Holidays is based in the city’s Highcross. The children it provides for are usually nominated through schools, social services and other local charities.
The charity was set up in 1898 by Lady Rolleston – the wife of a Leicester MP, who recognised that the boys working in the workhouses of the time, had very little opportunity for joy in their lives.
She took it upon herself to organise camping trips for them on the sandhills of Mablethorpe and in 1900, girls joined the holidays for the first time, sleeping in purpose built wooden huts.
In 1937, the charity set up a large holiday home on the beach front for children to enjoy, and it’s something which was used for many years.
“Many members of the community still look back fondly on those holidays, and for some, it’s the only time that they can remember seeing the sea, or being on the beach as a child. ”
“When they reach adulthood, some of our beneficiaries go on to support the charity, because of those fond memories – they want to give back, and help other children have the experiences they did,” revealed Ms Moore.
For 120 years, the seaside town of Mablethorpe served as the primary destination for Leicester Children’s Holidays.
However, for the past five years, the charity has chosen to take children to Norfolk for more ‘adventure style’ holidays.
“Norfolk is our main destination of choice at the moment, and children are able to enjoy a fabulous woodland holiday,” said Ms Moore.
“As it’s not too far from the beach, they still get a beach day, but they also get to experience zip wires, rock climbing, bike riding… They get all of their meals, and have an amazing experience with us – a chance to try something new, be with other children and really build their confidence.”
As part of their 125th anniversary celebrations, Leicester Children’s Holidays have launched a new initiative for 2023, which will widen its offer and help to enrich even more young lives.
‘Broadening Horizons’ is designed for children who have an interest and a passion that they would love to pursue, if it wasn’t for their difficult circumstance.
It gives them the opportunity to embrace pursuits such as sport, music or drama, by supporting them in after school and weekend activities.
“Every child deserves to try something or foster a talent. The children that we support very rarely get to experience something other than home or school, so actually opening their eyes to seeing something new and giving them that feeling of being invested in is just so important to their futures and their self esteem,” said Ms Moore.
“Leicestershire is so fortunate to have a children’s charity that just supports opportunities for children, and we want to continue to expand our reach in the years to come,” she added.
“This year is also about raising our profile, so that we can continue to support children for the next 125 years and beyond! ”