Some time to unwind, enjoy yourself and let go of the stresses of everyday life – going on holiday has several benefits that have us all excitedly booking breaks at least once a year, but unfortunately, that’s not the case for everyone.

CHICKS is a charity that offers week-long respite breaks – including over Christmas – for children aged 8-15 from various backgrounds, whether they’re suffering from neglect, poverty, bullying, abuse, substance abuse by a parent, or living as young carers; these are children who may have never been on holiday before, or have too many responsibilities at home to live the carefree life that most children their age live. 20th November is UNICEF’s World Children’s Day – a global day of action, where kids all over the world can take a stand for their lives. And we, along with CHICKS, believe that every child has the right to enjoy a holiday and have a break. 

We visited their Daleside Retreat in Derbyshire in October and saw first-hand the impact and joy these breaks bring to young children.

CHICKS Daleside retreat

When we arrived, we were greeted by the Partnerships & Regional Manager, Mabel, before going on a tour of the retreat. She spoke to us about the day-to-day happenings there, took us around the various facilities like the indoor sports barn with a football pitch and two large trampolines, an arts and crafts room, air hockey, table football and ping pong; an absolute haven for kids of any age! When speaking about what they provide the kids, something that really tugged at the heartstrings of the team was that they have a collection of clothes for children who come with nothing but their school uniform (and they can take home the clothes they wear)… a hard thing to hear but just one of the many things CHICKS provide these kids.

CHICKS Daleside retreat

Once we’d had a walk around the retreat, we were then taken into the cafeteria where we introduced ourselves to the group of kids we would be spending the day with. When the picnic was made and we were ready to go, we headed out on the minibuses for an afternoon at the Peak District National Park.

Sandwiches, ice creams and lots of playing with mud – that’s exactly what we did when we first got to the park. Unsurprisingly when the children had permission to jump around in muddy puddles and wipe it all over their faces, they revelled in it (they probably would have rolled around in it if they were allowed,too!) With a few of the Oliver’s Travels team even joining in the fun.

CHICKS Daleside retreat ice cream

Bellies full and faces sufficiently muddy, we headed further into the park where we pulled up near the water. What ensued was plenty of group games, such as splat and rock paper scissors (where if you win, you evolve from an egg to a chicken, and so on – and of course you act like it) – and honestly, it was so amusing to see the adults pretending to be eggs and dinosaurs… 

CHICKS Daleside retreat group games

Got a bit of mud on your face, guys?

Once the group games were over – and Ravi still hadn’t evolved from an egg – the kids were given some free time to explore, play games or sit and chat. Naturally, a lot of the boys started a game of football, while others went off on a scavenger hunt, or simply to jump around in the water.

CHICKS Daleside retreat water

By the end, the whole Oliver’s Travels team had joined in the football (and proved the kids were the ones with the real talent!) And when we returned to the retreat, the games continued, with some of the group playing football in the hall, others getting ready for dinner and a couple of us not able to resist jumping about on the trampolines…

CHICKS Daleside retreat trampolining

On the face of it, to outsiders this was just a bunch of kids having a fun day out, but in reality it was so much more than that – for each and every child it was a much-needed respite from a stressful situation at home, an opportunity to escape reality, make memories and friends, develop social skills, build confidence and most importantly, live the carefree life every child should be able to live in an open and caring environment.

CHICKS Daleside retreat group ipic

The CHICKS team is made up of a mixture of staff members and volunteers dedicated to improving the lives of these children, and they were running full-steam-ahead the whole day; they gave the kids 110% and their energy never wavered. You could clearly see the relationships they had built with the children, and that they felt at ease with them (so much so, the children were wiping mud on all their faces!)

CHICKS currently receive referrals from teachers and social workers for children who are in need of a break (you can also refer a child here), with quite a long waiting list, which just goes to show exactly how many children in the UK could benefit from one of these week-long retreats. If you would like to make a difference follow this link to donate.

Josie went on two CHICKS breaks as a child, and now works as a volunteer for them. Read her story on the charity and how they helped her when she was living as a young carer for her mum.

We are so happy to be working with such a worthwhile charity – we donate 1% of our profits to CHICKS and have so far raised £30,000 – one of the OT team that visited the Daleside Retreat, Matt, also recently ran the London Parks Half Marathon to help raise money. If you would like to get involved, you can donate, or take part in a challenge event like Matt did to raise money.

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