It was so good to be able to resume some direct work with children at the start of the summer holidays. After missing out on Easter and May holiday outings during lockdown, we were keen to enable as many children as we could to enjoy a trip out and give families a little breather from each other.
Logistics are not easy for our set up, as we work across all of East London, usually bringing children and volunteers together from a wide area with a high dependence on public transport and other venues, in a group of 12-20 people from families who by nature have additional health vulnerabilities! Working within government guidelines, to minimise risk we have focused on resuming individual visits between families and volunteers and piloting localised mini outings for up to 6 people, prioritising outdoor activities.
Highlights for summer mini outings:
Hiring tennis courts, to provide a special feature to local park trips.
A trip to Epping Forest with some 6-8 year olds who spent the afternoon, whooping with joy as they ran, jumped, climbed, built dens and explored.
Swimming in the heat wave, at a local pool who have done such an amazing job with a one way system and social distancing with 10 min entry slots, that we have frequently been the only people in the changing rooms, and enjoyed the pool with a handful of other people.
Paddleboarding and kayaking on local river / canals for two groups of lucky teenage girls.
Big slides at Victoria Park
Relationship remains one of the core values at the heart of our work. We prioritised enabling children to get together where friendships have been built on previous outings, with volunteers they know well and has been so precious to see children so happy to be together again. Some children have been anxious going out for the first time after lockdown, and volunteers have been amazing helping children with this transition and willing to go the extra mile to provide this opportunity.
Mini outings have mostly featured either one on one visits facilitating a local activity, or two to four children accompanied by two volunteers. The restriction on group size and localisation has significantly reduced our capacity this summer, along with a reduced number of volunteers feeling able to resume active roles at that point. This has had the biggest impact on our teenage work where we usually take groups of 12-20 young people accompanied by 3-4 volunteers. We were able to offer 75% of our 4-11’s a mini outing, but only 30% of our 11-18year olds.
Continuing with our long standing commitment we will always do as much as we can with the resources and capacity we have and are grateful for each child, young person, or family we have been able to impact during this season. Behind the scenes we are working to see how we can increase our team capacity to enable us to reach more of the children and young people with volunteer visits and mini outings.
With autumn and the colder weather creeping in making outdoor activities less viable, alongside constantly updated government guidelines and restrictions as the corona virus pandemic unfolds, plans for October half-term remain uncertain but we hope to offer mini outings and continue to make the most of any freedoms we do have to support our children and families.