Written by Ellie*, a Hestia Summer Play Scheme Coordinator

The Summer Play Scheme is fundamental in giving the families in our domestic abuse refuges and modern slavery service a well needed and deserved respite from refuge life. 

The Summer Holidays are six weeks long, and as anyone with children knows, it's a tricky time. Keeping children entertained at any time is hard, but for six whole weeks? It borders on impossible.

It's even more difficult for children in a domestic abuse refuge or in our modern slavery service. The things that families can do over the summer can be limited by financial restrictions and the fact they are isolated from their support network and normal their environment.

There are so many barriers that prevent these families from having the normal Summer Holiday and family time that they need. Many of the mums are still recovering from the unimaginable abuse they have had to endure. Many of the families have been forced to flee from the areas they have called home and are faced with navigating new surroundings.

Whilst we always try to make the most of the free activities going on across London, and the Children and Family Workers are always very creative in trying to do low cost activities, it's nice to be able to have flexibility in being able to treat the families to an extra special summer. And for six whole weeks, sourcing activities that are entirely free is a not always possible.

Families often say that when they aren't keeping themselves busy, it's easy for negative thoughts and bad memories to resurface. We also know that when children experience domestic abuse, their mental health suffers. Almost 60% of all millennials who have experienced domestic abuse in childhood have since experienced poor mental health.

Hestia's Summer Play Scheme is an opportunity for these families to create new, positive memories together. It's an opportunity to provide specialist support and help these children to recover from what they have faced.

So many of the children worry about going back to school with nothing to tell their friends. Everyone else in their classes seem to be able enjoy holidays and trips and activities over the summer, and without the Summer Play Scheme, they are left feeling isolated. 

I can’t put into words how nice it is to see the families laughing and playing together. Last year with the Summer Play Scheme, thanks to the Big Give, we were able to make sure that the children we support could take part in days out and fun activities that otherwise wouldn't be possible.

You visibly see the mums relax, knowing that their child is safe and having fun. They're able to spend quality time with their children - time that has been cruelly taken from them. They're able to enjoy new things and new experiences, as a family, for the first time.

The Summer Play Scheme is truly invaluable. I've seen the immensely positive impact it can have, and I hope we're able to deliver it this year on an even bigger scale!

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