Well-being breaks: the freedom to leave home

Together in Dignity, our family support programme, is designed to offer vulnerable families different types of support in order to help them get through adversity. The program’s aims are achieved through our three main projects:

This article will explore what we do in well-being breaks, which are part of our ‘Getting away from it’ project. 

What are our well-being breaks?

One of the main aims of our ‘Getting away from it’ project is providing families in poverty a safe space to relax and escape from the hardships of life. 

We have two different kinds of breaks: well-being residential stays and daylong well-being activities. Our overnight stays have changed in recent years so that at the moment we usually propose 3 days at our residential family house, Frimhurst. As the well-being days tend to be more activity based, they vary, for example spending a day at Frimhurst doing a pottery workshop, going to a museum in London, or something else that appeals to the participants. 

What is Frimhurst Family House?

Situated beside the Basingstoke Canal in Surrey, Frimhurst is a modernised Victorian manor house that, since 1957, offers a haven for families living in persistent poverty. In Frimhurst we offer adults, children and young people with lived experience of poverty the chance to enjoy family holidays, take part in social events, explore their creativity and get involved in a variety of volunteering opportunities. It boasts amazing facilities, such as a library, art studio, games room, nursery, computer suite and four purpose-built family apartments.

Who comes to the well-being breaks?

We invite both families with children and individual adults who are part of the ATD community. Some of these people already have a long history of involvement with ATD, for example our group of senior activists. Other families and/or individuals are just starting to get to know ATD. That being said, we do not propose overnight residential stays at Frimhurst the first time we meet a family. We tend to begin by offering shorter outings and activities, such as well-being days, in order to build a relationship first. This step is a time to create trust between families and our team, in hopes of alleviating the stress and anxiety anyone might feel when entering a new environment.

For our residential stays, we tend to group together either families with children, or adults. In the past year, we offered two stays for individual adults, and eight stays for families with children. Numbers vary but for family stays, we usually invite three families at a time for them to create bonds and a support network between them.

What do we do in the residential well-being breaks?

The answer can be as simple as “whatever families want”. This is their holiday, so it’s important that they have control of what they want to do during their stay. Prior to each break, we ask families about their hobbies and what their goals are for the stay, for example “relaxing”, “being active” or “getting to know the area”. Once we hear back from all the families invited, our team creates a programme based on their responses. 

We try to offer a mixture of activities that might usually be out of reach for them (such as going to the cinema or minigolf) as well as activities that are simple and budget friendly, so they can duplicate them after going home (for example, craft activities such as making Christmas decorations, cushion covers, or bracelets). 

Although we provide as many activities as possible, we also invite families to choose which ones they feel like attending or not. Just as might happen during a family’s individual holiday, different activities are available, but it’s up to them to choose the options they prefer. 

Why do we focus on well-being?

Most of the families we work with lack the opportunity to go somewhere for a family holiday. Everyone needs a break from time to time, but people living in poverty do not have that luxury.

Although finances play a massive role in this, sometimes they face other barriers in order to go on holidays, from not having internet to book things, to not having the confidence and/or the mental freedom to leave their home (usually due to past trauma).

With the help of our team, they get to enjoy a stress-free fun escape. Going to Frimhurst gives them the tranquillity of knowing that their children are in safe hands, and that if need be, we are here to support them in any way necessary. 

Moreover, thanks to the workshops offered and the environment in Frimhurst, we see an increase in confidence in the people who take part in our well-being breaks. Seeing others doing the activities inspires them and makes them think “If they can do it, so can I!” 

Furthermore, through these stays, relationships are developed, with most participants keeping in touch afterwards, which helps to create a support system for them.