Norfolk charity celebrates 50 years of giving children a better start in life
- Credit: SIMON FINLAY
It is the charity which is bringing fun to our streets with the GoGoHares trail this summer, but it also has a serious side. Emma Knights looks at how Break has been helping to change young lives for the last 50 years and how you can support its vital work.
Countless young people have had a better start in life thanks to children's charity Break, and as the organisation marks its 50th anniversary it is inviting people to join in its celebrations and help it carry on its vital work for the next 50 years.
Break's story began in 1968 when it was set up by Geoffrey and Judith Davison and their friend Leslie Morley to provide holidays for young people with disabilities.
They chose Norfolk as the place for these much-needed vacations, starting with holiday centres Rainbow and Sandcastle in Sheringham and Hunstanton.
Since then the charity has grown considerably in both scope and scale but its ethos has always remained the same - to ensure vulnerable children, young people and families receive the support they need to flourish.
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Break's chief executive officer Hilary Richards said: 'We passionately believe every child and young person needs a home where they feel safe and loved, so they can grow in confidence and look to the future with hope and that's what we strive for every day.
'Over the past 50 years our charity has gone from strength to strength ensuring that we can support more of the children and young people across the region who need us. We have grown from a small family charity in the early days to one that offers a wide range of support.'
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The charity, which has its headquarters in Spar Road in Norwich but works across much of East Anglia, now runs a number of family-sized children's homes and a fostering service for young people who, for whatever reason, can no longer live with their families.
Its Moving On Team also ensures those turning 18 and leaving care continue to get the help they need for as long as they need it, and through the Staying Close, Staying Connected project Break is hoping its pioneering model of support for young people leaving the formal care system will also spread beyond the region. It also runs homes and respite breaks for children with disabilities and learning difficulties, offers support to families in need through its Norwich-based Break Family Centre, and undertakes specialist support and assessment work in situations when a child's wellbeing is considered to be at risk.
It is a charity with real heart and it was also ranked at number 15 in the 2018 Sunday Times Best Companies List category for Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work For.
Before Anna came to live in a Break children's home aged nine all she had known was a life of fear, unpredictability and neglect.
She would have times of great distress when she would separate from reality and relive the trauma of her past, but gradually the safety and unconditional care and support she received from the Break team helped her flourish and, above all, be a child.
'It was powerful to see Anna's first bath – pouring bubbles over her head and playing with the toys – she demonstrated the gleeful reaction of a much younger child. And when she plays hide and seek she shakes with excitement when she is found,' said a support worker from her children's home.
'Anna is able to concentrate on learning now her night terrors have gone and she has achieved 100pc attendance in her education. She is able to participate in school plays and attend school trips and after school clubs, all of which were previously too difficult for her.'
Jordan was one of the first people to benefit from Break's Moving On House in King's Lynn when he moved there in December 2015 just days before he turned 18.
He had previously lived in one of Break's children's homes in King's Lynn for four years, and with the help of his transition worker, Shelly Whitby, he adapted to a more independent way of living by learning to cook, budget his money, use the washing machine and do other essential household chores.
'I learnt so many skills living in the Moving On House. I cannot thank the staff enough,' said Jordan, who has now moved into his own flat and is continuing his studies at college.
Ms Whitby said: 'Jordan is doing fantastically well, he is very independent and enjoys living in the community and close by to our office so he can pop in and access any support that he needs.'
She added: 'He has managed the challenges that life has dealt him and will be prepared for the future.'
HOW YOU CAN HELP BREAK
Break has come a long way in the last five decades, and much of its valuable work has been possible thanks to the help of its supporters.
These include regular fundraisers, corporate supporters, those who volunteer at or shop in Break's charity shops, and those who support its big charity events including its GoGo art trails run with Wild in Art.
In Break's 50th year there are many ways you can celebrate and support Break, including by getting involved in the GoGoHares art trail which will be hopping into the city and county from June 24, taking part in other big fundraising events like the Grand Norwich Duck Race in August, or setting yourself a My Break 50 Challenge to raise funds.
Ms Richards said: 'With the help of all our amazing fundraisers, corporate partners, volunteers and our team, we will continue to develop what we do to ensure that we are changing young lives for the next 50 years.'