Blog by Lynsey Robinson about her visit to the Hope 4 Summer Project in Middlesbrough which she visited with photographer and Near Neighbours Communications Officer, Tim Burton- Jones.
Last week I travelled from London to Middlesbrough with Tim Burton- Jones, Communications Officer for Near Neighbours and photographer, to visit the Hope4Summer project.
What is Hope4Summer?*
Hope4Summer, now in its second year, brings together over 30 churches and community groups in different locations across Middlesbrough, offering fun activities for children during the summer holidays.
We first arrived at the Hope4Summer project held at the Trinity Centre, North Ormesby. Here we met with Heather Black, Development Worker for Together Middlesbrough and Cleveland. Heather has been key in setting up and co- ordinating the Hope4Summer project. She has helped to link local churches and community groups in the area, working in partnership with Hope4boro to make sure that there is at least one summer club running every week of the holidays. She has also been pivotal in facilitating conversations on how to address the issues facing many families in the area during the holidays. She told us that "for many local families the summer holidays are a struggle with the children at home 24/7 and no free school meals. The weekly budget has to stretch further for food and there is little left for activities and treats." It was great to watch her in action!
Pictured: "Sharks" at the Trinity Centre, North Ormesby
The value of the work being done by Heather and the other project leaders cannot be overstated. At the start of the summer Heather along with Nigel Perrott, manager of Middlesbrough Foodbank bought food for 2000 snacks and lunches at the local cash ‘n’ carry for the children. Free and low cost lunches during the summer are vital. Around 1.7million children in the UK are eligible for free school meals- during the summer there is no guarantee that their parents or carers can afford this extra cost. In the summer of 2013 Middlesbrough Foodbank saw a 40% increase in referrals of families.
Trinity Centre, North Ormesby
Although we arrived on a drizzly, overcast day, the spirits of the children and volunteers were certainly not dampened. At the Trinity Centre the children were having plenty of fun playing tag and 'sharks' in the community garden. Jonah, one of the children explained the rules to us with glee, ‘the sharks get the yellow bands and snatch them off the other team and the winners get sweets and candy.’
Pictured: Jonah and Lynsey
When we moved back inside and into the main hall, we were struck by the army style netting draped across the roof, along with the camouflage on the walls- had we arrived at a military camp? Baffling us further, we were then shown where the local dinosaur's eggs had recently hatched…However our fears of ambush were laid to rest when it was explained that this summer the children were learning about 'survival'- creatively themed by Rachel, the project leader. Earlier in the week the children learned how to put up tents amongst a host of other survival skills. Tianna, one of the children, told us with great excitement about a recent trip to the local outdoor centre where they made rafts and even sailed on them!
The value of Hope4Summer became even clearer when we spoke to Alayna (pictured below), one of the volunteers. As a child she had attended activities at the Trinity Centre and had loved her time. She now brings along her cousin Lybah as well as volunteering at the club for her Duke of Edinburgh Award. She explained to us that Hope4Summer was giving her confidence in her ability to lead. This was echoed by Laura who was volunteering at the Trinity Methodist Church during her summer break from university. She said that her experience had helped her to 'come out of her shell' and boosted her confidence.
Trinity Methodist Church
When lunchtime came we visited another Hope4Summer Project at the Trinity Methodist Church. Here I had the chance to speak to some of the children about how much they enjoyed the summer club. Matt, age 7, told us he’d be in bed if he wasn't there! As they moved around the hall playing different games and activities we were struck by how calm and well- behaved the children were. The smooth- running of the program and wide range of activities had a lot to do with this. The children were so enthusiastic about playing table tennis, air hockey, table football, and about creating their own pictures to take home. Ryan told us that the best part of the summer was coming to Hope4Summer!
Pictured: Trinity Methodist Church Hope4Summer
Around 3pm parents started to arrive to collect their children. When we spoke to Matt and Harvey’s mum she explained that she normally works short shifts and that without the summer club this would not be feasible- childcare is simply unaffordable. The Hope4Summer project means that parents can choose which summer club they take their children to, depending on their schedule. Another mother we spoke to works night shifts and Hope4Summer means she can actually sleep in the morning.
Pictured: Dress- up fun at the Trinity Methodist Church
Our time in Middlesbrough was an eye-opener. When you are surrounded by a room of excited children who are running around and showing themselves to be little bundles of energy, you realise that Hope4Summer takes so much pressure off parents. Parents can offer their children a fun and safe environment where they can spend time with friends, eat free and healthy lunches, learn, and burn up some of that energy. Meanwhile, parents can continue to go to work and can avoid expensive childcare, or for parents at home a few hours break means they have more to give when their children come home having had a fun and energetic day.
Church in Action
At the Hope4Summer project we saw churches working together to transform lives and communities in a very real and practical way. We witnessed the church making an impact local communities by stepping in and giving support to families when and where it is most needed.
*Hope4Summer was part funded by a Together Network grant.
Watch the Hope4Summer video from 2014 here
Author: Lynsey Robinson
Date: 12 August 2015
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