Summer activity bags to help alleviate holiday poverty

Summer bags leading photo

“Both girls have been at home throughout lockdown due to their Mum’s cancer returning, so these activity packs are ideal. The youngest has a visual impairment and I’m blown away by the large print wordsearch, it was obviously meant to be! The feedback I had when I dropped them off to our families has been amazing.”

For many, the summer of 2020 felt like it would never arrive, but for families living in poverty, it was a source of impending dread. After an extended period without the stimulation of school, a lack of resources at home to keep the children occupied and no funds to spend on days out, how will the extra-long summer be filled?

This is sadly the worrying situation for many of the families we support at Stripey Stork. In discussions with our referral partners before the summer holidays began, holiday poverty was identified as a key concern. With even more families in financial crisis this year due to COVID-19, there was fear over how they’d cope with the additional financial pressure of entertaining the children, who would struggle without their usual clubs and support.

We wanted to do something practical to help these local families, so our summer bags project was launched. Led by one of our capable volunteers, Laura, we set about sourcing ‘boredom buster’ items to fill these reusable drawstring bags.

Items included age-appropriate colouring books, stationery, puzzles, games and reading books. To ensure all identified children were catered for, different packs were put together for pre-schoolers, primary and secondary school children.

The feedback we received from the families on the variety and quality of the items speaks for itself:

“I just want to say thanks for the bags. What awesome stuff. This will definitely help with things to do over the next few weeks.”

“You guys have been so kind. My son was chuffed to bits to receive his goodies. We really appreciate everything you have done.”

“Thank you so much, what an overwhelming amount of lovely things. My daughter is obsessed with putting on and taking off her new bag.”

The Red Oak Family Centre gave us some lovely photos and feedback too:

“Thank you for the wonderful activity bags you provided for our Summer Munch group. The activities encouraged sharing, turn taking, family participation and supported social interactions, as well as fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, imagination, creativity, independence, and most of all FUN!”.

Volunteer Laura, being a qualified teacher herself, even designed some indoor and outdoor games to play using the dominoes, playing cards and bean bags included in the packs. These, as well as lot of other free children’s activities can be found on our website, in the new Kid’s Corner zone.

Laura was helped by some other volunteers who deserve a special mention too. Here’s Jo and her son Charlie below, hard at work putting the bags together. Chris and Ann from Horley Tangent also joined us to lend a helping hand.

We even had a royal helping hand, when HM Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey and the Surrey High Sheriff joined us for a volunteer session of bag packing. You can read all about their visit here.

Photo credit: Steve Porter

Close to 500 bags have been distributed in total, amongst local nurseries and schools, family centres, community hubs and churches. We were also delighted to hear that Earlswood & Whitebushes Council were able to distribute some of the bags amongst their deserving families, in lieu of running the physical games programme they had originally planned for the school holidays.

Over the summer we’ve had some fantastic fundraisers – Paul’s Wing Walk and the local Scrubs for Heroes team who’ve been busy making face masks for charity donations. It’s because of fundraisers like these, that we are able to undertake special projects such as this one. Projects which we are well-placed to identify when the need arises, but more importantly that we can act on quickly because the funds are there.

So a big thank you to our fundraisers, as well as Laura for coordinating the project, our referrals partners for working with us to reach those families in need and our core team/volunteers for all their hard work in making this happen. It’s been such a worthwhile and tangible project – one which we know has made a massive difference.

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