For three weeks over the school summer holiday, St Martin’s Church on the London Road, Worcester will be hosting a HAF (Holiday Activities and Food) holiday club for children of families on low incomes.
This is a government-funded scheme to help children who are eligible for free school meals or where the family receives other benefits. St Martin’s will provide their facilities and the food each day with activities organised by PAL Fitness Education.
Church member, Shirley Scott, explains: “The Covid pandemic encouraged us to focus on what really matters to the people in our community, and in 2021 we embarked on a project to ‘Widen our Welcome’ - we're calling it WOW. We had some work completed on the lower level of our church (happily, all funded by charity grants and private donations), turning the vestry into a meeting room which we could open to the community and adding a kitchen and accessible toilet. This became an ideal space for us to fulfil one of our longheld desires to provide holiday help for children who normally receive free school meals.”
The church was advised that the best way to provide food was to go through the HAF programme which is administered by the local authority. A HAF co-ordinator arranges for an activities provider to link with the church and volunteers from the church help to facilitate the club and provide a meal for the children attending.
“We opened for an initial four days during the Easter holidays and will now run for three weeks during the summer. Each day starts with a breakfast club for an hour from 8.30am and there are then different activities on offer including arts and crafts, music and sports. We’ll serve a healthy cooked lunch before the club finishes at 1pm,” continues Shirley. “Our plan is that one of the activities will be cooking to involve some of the children in preparing the lunchtime meal. There will also be a sandwich bar for the children to make their own lunch if they’d prefer.”
The holiday club is being advertised through local schools and the church are also encouraged to invite any families they know who are on lower incomes. Families fill in a simple application form to request a place and up to 30 children are expected each day.
“The HAF programme comes with funding so there is no cost to the church and it’s a really great way to use the space that we have. Our plan is to make further changes to our building to give us more opportunities to engage with our local community. We know it’ll be hard work, but it’s all very exciting!” Said Shirley.