Coventry Central and Nuneaton churches collaborated on running a Holiday Activities and Food Programme specifically for those amongst the most underprivileged in its community. Even before the pandemic, summer holidays were a particular pressure point for some families because of increased costs such as food and childcare. Add the impact of Covid-19 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 organised 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 to run a free holiday club for 40 local children on benefit-related free school meals.
The Community Services Department comprised a proposal whereby they wanted 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, whilst at the same time, promoting healthy living by providing at least one hour a day of physical activity.
Although the places at our holiday activity club were advertised and taken up quickly, 10 additional spaces were reserved and given to children from the church. It was a joy to see how 50 children whom for the most part had never met but formed 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 whilst the children participated in horse riding, go-karting, trampolining, tenpin bowling, arts and crafts sessions, museum trips, sports days and cook and eat well sessions and many other enriching activities, not forgetting the Smoothie Bike Challenge.
The final day ended with Pathfinder and Adventurer taster sessions and drilling and marching displays. This gave us an opportunity to share a little of our church activity with the children. Maybe, the marching was not their favourite activity, but their enthusiasm was demonstrated much more in the drumming and the work done for a Pathfinder honour.
Thembinkosi Mesiane the lead on this programme, said, "to lead and serve children from the community was quite a new experience to me and I had fears of not knowing their behaviours, backgrounds, attitudes, culture, and family norms. I asked God to lead the way into this role and amazingly God provided amazing team members and volunteers who by His Spirit served the mission exceptionally brilliantly."
As the scheme ended some of the parents brought us beautiful bouquets of flowers and thank you cards saying this had been a wonderful experience for their children bringing them out of their comfort zones and helping them to have new experiences. The council are asking if we will run further sessions. We see this as a council-funded evangelistic activityand as God leads us, we will do what we can to minister to the children and families in our community.
Here are just a few comments from parents/carers:
"Thank you so much for [the] chance and [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 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 have 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 our community.