Falling take-up threatens children's holiday scheme


A charity providing free holidays for underprivileged children may be forced to cancel next year's programme if demand does not pick up.

The Jewish Children's Holiday Fund has been running two-week holidays for eight to 11-year-olds for more than a century. But this year, there have been only 22 applications for the 40 places, sparking concerns over the future of the service.

JCHF vice-chairman David Freedman said that "applications are underwhelming. We haven't as yet been able to fill our camp. The biggest problem is people don't know about it."

Mr Freedman said the charity would have to consider ending the programme as the holidays would not be economically viable. The camp, held at Skeet Hill House in Orpington, Kent, costs around £64,000 to run. "We don't want to stop," he stressed. "We have fabulous leaders who work hard throughout the year."

JCHF began as a Jewish branch of the Children's Country Holidays Fund before splintering off into a separate organisation. For around 40 years, it owned a property in Seaford on the south coast where, in the 1970s and '80s, it ran three two-week holidays every summer with kosher catering, daily activities and outings for more than 100 children. When the Seaford house fell into disrepair it was sold by the charity and for the past few years Skeet Hill House has been rented for two weeks in the summer.

Accountant and JCHF volunteer Andrew Essex has been a camp leader for 32 years, following in the footsteps of his parents. He, too, attributed low take-up to the target audience not knowing about the charity. "I think it is a great shame. We have the means to give children a holiday and give parents a break."

JCHF also provides grants for children attending other Jewish holiday camps. If numbers were too low to run its own camp in 2016, Mr Freedman said the charity would try to ensure that any applicants were provided with grants for other camps.

Alyson Larholm, 42, has fond memories of attending the camp as a youngster - her single-parent mother could not afford to take her on holiday.

"I had an incredible time. It was independence, two weeks away from home at a young age. There are friendships I made that are still [strong]. And for my mum, two weeks away from me was a blessing. I was not the easiest child.

"It would be such a shame if all that stopped now."

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