I was petrified of my dad as a child, so charity’s holiday was my escape’ says Leicester woman
A woman who had a tough childhood has spoken about the huge difference a Leicester charity’s holiday trip made to her life.
Naomi, now aged 31, went on holiday to Mablethorpe with the charity when she was eight. For her, it was an escape from life at her Leicester home.
For account manager Naomi, the initial two-week stay with Leicester Children’s Holidays in 1996 made a huge impact on her. She said: “It suddenly allowed me to be a child again. I could have fun and it was so good to feel safe and carefree.”
Naomi, who currently lives in Leicester with her grandfather, said: “I saw things at home that a child should not see. My father was jailed seven times when I was growing up. For more than half of my childhood he was in prison.
She remembers how when she was very little, she was always daddy’s girl. She said: “But I grew up petrified of him. Mum protected me and I stayed a lot at my nana and grandad’s, the house where I live now. When my father was in prison we always managed. My mum even had to face court action by my father to get the right to see me.
“Along the way my mum and nana were my rocks. Without them both I am not sure I would have coped.”
She grew up as only child and went away to Mablethorpe with the charity three times and, just like today, was put forward by her schools, first Coleman Primary and later Linden Primary.
And just like today, her mum and her nana took her to the charity’s headquarters at Holy Bones to get her on the coach. “I remember being terribly travel sick”, Naomi said. “My mum always handed me a carrier bag and a bottle ofwater just in case. But I always had an amazing time.
“I remember the dorms with 12 girls in each, the cold floors and choosing your bed. I always picked the same one. It was exciting for us children and we seemed to make friends easily.
“I don’t remember what film I watched last week but I remember vividly watching Star Wars at a little cinema owned by a lovely couple. It was a real treat.
“I remember playing on the beach, the obstacle course and the treasure hunt which was half on the beach and half in the house.”
She left home at 18 and studied at De Montfort University and went to work in Birmingham as an account manager and now she is back living in Leicester.
Naomi said: “The experience with my father really made me push myself to be an adult. I grew up quickly. I legally ‘divorced’ my father when I was 13 and was determined to be successful and be nothing like him. I never smoked or even considered taking drugs.
“I loved my holidays in Mablethorpe and I realised the value of a break. I thought the charity had closed down when the Mablethorpe centre shut but then I saw on LeicestershireLive Facebook site about children’s holidays.
“I had to go into the shop at Highcross in Leicester and realised it was the same charity which helped me 23 years ago. I gladly did some gift wrapping for them to help raise money and hope to volunteer again for them in the future.”
For the first time in 75 years, Leicester Children’s Holidays’ summer 2020 trips for disadvantaged children have been postponed.
Eight-five excited children from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland were lined up to go to Hilltop Outdoor Centre near Sheringham but the centre is not re-opening this summer. The reason is the difficulties children and staff would have to maintain social distancing in the living quarters.
During both world wars the charity was proud to allow its centre in Mablethorpe to be used by troops focused on the country’s coastal defences.
The charity hopes many of the children will be able to go on holiday next summer, if not before.
The charity’s manager Nicky Kandola said: “The fundraising will continue and we will do our best to increase the number of disadvantaged children we take on holiday.
“We have investigated alternative holiday centres and even day trips and waited until the last possible moment to make the announcement.”
To volunteer at Leicester Children’s Holidays, go to the website here.
The charity offers free respite breaks for children aged eight to 11 who live in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and may face difficult circumstances at home. The youngsters may live in a low-income family, have suffered a bereavement, be a child carer looking after a parent or sibling, or need a break for a host of other reasons.