Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heaven Has Its Own Travel Agent; JUST THE JOB

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heaven Has Its Own Travel Agent; JUST THE JOB

Article excerpt

Byline: LIZ BESTIC

Not everyone can afford to go on a summer holiday. Liz Bestic meets one woman who is giving Britain's poorest but deserving families a break

FOR many people, the highlight of their year is choosing where to go on their summer hols. The idea of flying off to stretch out on a sun-soaked beach is something most of us take for granted. We look forward to getting away from it all to recharge our batteries before returning to the daily grind.

Yet for families worn down by poverty, bad housing, violence or long-term illness, holidays are a luxury which only happen to other people.

Despite the massive growth in the holiday industry, research by the English Tourism Council shows that at least 25 per cent of the population still cannot afford to take a holiday.

That's where the Family Holiday Association comes in. The organisation, which is dedicated to providing holidays for deprived families, was founded 25 years ago by Joan and Pat Laurance whose little girl was very ill at the time.

The family badly needed a break but could not afford a holiday. A friend lent them his seaside home in return for looking after his cat and at the end of their week they felt rejuvenated and ready to face the world again.

"They realised a simple short holiday had enriched their lives and given them the strength to carry on and hit on the idea of raising money to provide the same for other families in need," says Jenny Stephenson, Director of the FHA.

Over the past 25 years, the FHA has helped more than 15,000 families to enjoy a well earned break, often for the very first time. "For these families, household bills, children's clothes, the TV licence are all more urgent than getting a break - and yet that is the very thing they badly need," says Stephenson.

We are not talking luxury cruises or five-star hotels in the Caribbean. Most of the breaks organised by the FHA are modest, self-catering holidays at UK centres such as Pontins or Butlin's. Nor are they charity handouts. Each family gets to pick from what's on offer.

"That means they get to enjoy normal things like choosing a holiday, having something to look forward to and when the holiday is over lots of happy memories," she says. …

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