When I was 10, we were taken on a whole school trip to Littlehampton. There are several reasons I remember this day trip. Firstly, because my mum bought my sister and I brand new bags to take with us, and made us a special packed lunch. And secondly, because of a little girl in my class called Sheila.
Of course, as soon as our coaches arrived at the seaside, we were all excited and couldn’t wait to go for a paddle or swim (under close supervision, naturally). But Sheila stood there, looking at the sea. And then she burst into tears. When we asked her what was wrong, she told us, ‘I’ve never seen the sea before.’
The truth was, Sheila had never been anywhere before. She didn’t have a new bag, or a special packed lunch. I didn’t realise it at the time, but Sheila got free school meals and her mum and dad were both on benefits.
That day, Sheila got to play in the sea for the first time in her life, and I will never forget the look of total happiness on her face. I’m sure she’s never forgotten that day either.
Fast forward over 30 years later and there are still kids in Britain who never get the chance to go on holiday. In fact over 1.5million families can’t even afford a trip to the seaside. And that’s where the charity the Family Holiday Association comes in. They work to help disadvantaged children, whose lives are made harder by illness, bereavement or disability, get the kind of break they need. We all know the importance of getting some time away with our families over the summer. For these families, it’s crucial.
The very lovely Neil Oliver is an ambassador for the FHA and he’s encouraging us to help #makethissummermatter for all those children who don’t have the same advantages as our own. Do have a look at the website and see what you can do to help.
When I remember Sheila and our day at Littlehampton it still makes me cry to think of her face when she saw the sea for the first time. All kids should get the chance to see the sea. Let’s help make summer holiday memories for as many British kids as possible.