Coventry Central and Nuneaton churches in the U.K. collaborated on a holiday activities and food programme specifically for those amongst the most underprivileged in their community. Even before the pandemic, summer holidays were a particular pressure point for some families because of increased costs for things such as food and childcare that aren’t present during the school year. Add the impact of Covid with the resultant reduced incomes, and for some children from disadvantaged families that can lead to a holiday experience gap. They are less likely to access organized out-of-school activities, more likely to experience 'unhealthy holidays' in terms of nutrition and physical health, and to experience social isolation.
Coventry Central and Nuneaton churches heard the call and successfully submitted a bid to Coventry City Council for £15,500 (US $21,437) to run a free holiday club for 40 local children on benefit-related free school meals.
The Community Services Department composed a proposal to provide consistent and easily accessible enrichment activities promoting our health message, by giving the children a healthy vegetarian lunch and healthy snacks, give their parents advice in healthy food shopping, cooking, and eating, and at the same time, promoting healthy living by providing at least one hour a day of physical activity.
Although the holiday activity club was advertised and spots taken up quickly, ten additional spaces were reserved and given to children from the church. It was a joy for organizers to see 50 children who had really never met before form what appeared to be solid relationships as they engaged in the daily varied and exciting activities. Each day different activities were planned and the delight and excitement could be seen as the children participated in horse riding, go-karting, trampolining, bowling, arts and crafts sessions, museum trips, sports days, cook-and-eat-well sessions, and many other enriching activities, including the Smoothie Bike Challenge.
The final day ended with Pathfinder and Adventurer “taster” sessions with drilling and marching demonstrations. This gave participants an opportunity to share a little church activity with the community children. The marching may not have been their favorite activity, but their enthusiasm was demonstrated much more in the drumming and the work done for a Pathfinder honor.
"To lead and serve children from the community was quite a new experience to me and I had fears of not knowing their behaviors, backgrounds, attitudes, culture, and family norms,” says Thembinkosi Mesiane, program lead. “I asked God to lead the way into this role and God provided amazing team members and volunteers who by his Spirit served the mission exceptionally brilliantly."
As the event ended some of the parents brought organizers beautiful bouquets of flowers and thank you cards saying it had been a wonderful experience for their children, bringing them out of their comfort zones and helping them to have new experiences. The council asked for further sessions. Event coordinators see this as a council-funded evangelistic activity, and as God leads, say they will do what they can to minister to the children and families in their community.
Here are just a few comments from parents/carers:
"Thank you so much for [the] chance [to] meet new people."
"Thank you so much for giving my children an amazing two weeks' experience! They have had lots of fun and without your lovely and amazing staff this wouldn't have been possible."
"I was so glad I applied and grateful Amelia was accepted because she has had the best time. All the staff has been amazing. The activities were so much fun…"
"Thank you so much for giving them special and memorable experiences."
Pastor Herbert would like to thank Grace Charles and Thembinkosi Mesiane, along with all who gave their time, so that this venture could be such a blessing to the community.