Fun for the holidays

While most children get excited at the thought of school holidays, sisters Brianna*, 9, and Taylor*, 5, were not among them. 

Both girls had been exposed to their parents’ domestic violence and alcohol issues, before moving in with their grandmother, who became their permanent caregiver. However, their grandmother struggled with health issues and there wasn’t enough money to go on a family holiday or pay for a school holiday programme. 

Following a referral from Presbyterian Support’s Family Works programme, the girls were enrolled with Safer Mid Canterbury’s Children’s Programme, which ran for three weeks during the summer school holidays. 

Over the course of the holidays, Brianna and Taylor enjoyed activities such as making cars out of cardboard boxes and having a drive-in movie, learning how to bake, and an exciting trip to look around the police station. Their grandmother noticed Taylor’s confidence had increased by the end of the holidays and said there was quite an improvement in her behaviour and manners. Brianna, who would often help out around the house, said what she enjoyed the most about the programme was simply being able to “have fun and play with other kids”. 

The Children’s Programme is funded by Oranga Tamariki. Local social services agencies refer children who would not otherwise be involved in any school holiday activities. This could be due to their financial circumstances, behavioural issues, or they are considered “at risk”. For some families, life has just become too hard for school holidays to be on their list of priorities. 

The programme can cater for up to 25 children each week. Children are assigned to different age groups, with each group of five attending for one day each week. They get to try fun activities such as swimming, bike riding, archery, and going to adrenaline forest under the supervision of two youth workers. The children also learn basic life skills such as budgeting, preparing healthy kai, and baking. For example, each day they are given a small amount of money to purchase ingredients to make their lunch and prepare it as a group. 

Each group of children also experiences one trip to Christchurch during the holidays. Along with having fun and making friends, the children are taught behavioural skills such as respect for others, how to treat friends, good manners, and using positive language. 

At the end of the holidays, all of the families are invited to attend a group BBQ. The programme has become so popular that there is a waiting list.


*Names and photos have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.