The right to a holiday, from rural England to the French mountains

Above: La Bise, a holiday centre in France

If you are familiar with ATD Fourth World here in the UK, you will have heard of Frimhurst Family House. Part of our ‘Getting Away From It’ project, it offers well-being holiday breaks to families experiencing isolation and poverty. It highlights the importance of rest, well-being and the right to a holiday for all. Below, Celia Consolini writes about this, as well as a similar holiday centre located in France and run by the International Movement ATD Fourth World.

Frimhurst Family House was opened as a residential centre in 1957 by family social workers Grace Goodman and Margaret Gainsford. In 1961, founder of the International Movement ATD Fourth World Joseph Wresinski visited Frimhurst, and two ATD members joined the project a few years later. What connected ATD and Frimhurst was the importance of valuing families, listening to their concerns and opinions, and working hard to keep parents and children together.

Frimhurst in 1972

Now, Frimhurst Family House welcomes families and adults experiencing poverty for holiday breaks, so that they can rest and get away from the daily pressures of life in poverty. Set in Surrey and surrounded by woods, the Victorian manor house is a place for exploring creativity, taking time for oneself and creating friendships. For more details on Frimhurst’s history, you can read this article. You can also watch this animated video, which explains how the team there worked to overcome ‘day-to-day bitchiness’.

Early this February, three of us in ATD’s London team were invited to discover another ATD project, set idyllically in the French mountains in the Jura region: La Bise. While exploring the grounds and speaking to French team members, I couldn’t help but think of Frimhurst.

The right to a holiday

For more than thirty years, La Bise has been offering holiday breaks to families experiencing deep poverty across France. These family vacations are opportunities to get away from their daily life, as well as to rest, spend time in nature, and create connections and friendships with others.

Just like in Frimhurst, everyone is free to spend their time as they please, be it by playing board games together, engaging in creative activities, exploring the beautiful surroundings, or whatever else they enjoy.

On the wall in the dining room, a poster asks: “What does a holiday mean to me?” Team members raise this question with parents and children when they arrive in La Bise. Responses from the last group are still displayed:

“doing something I am not used to”, “being surprised”, “dance, see nature”, “make friends”, “make a photo album”, “take time for myself”….

The project in La Bise

La Bise has a strong local presence in this mountain region. Partnerships with surrounding farms offer fresh milk and bread. Many neighbours are allies and friends of ATD who come to volunteer during holiday stays.

Thanks to this large network of volunteers and friends who come to help during each stay, the team at La Bise can take time to really experience the holidays together with the families they welcome. Sylvain, an ATD team member living in La Bise with his own family, says:

“We are on vacation all together. And when I introduce people who come to volunteer during an activity, I say: I am introducing you to my friend. We want people to know we are happy to be here spending time all together. We don’t want to make it feel like work.”

Animals are also an important part of La Bise. In addition to supplying eggs, above all they bring peace. People can also take pride in caring for the animals: brushing the donkeys and feeding the rabbits and chickens is essential and makes one feel useful and part of life in La Bise.

The project is also part of a campaign for the right to a holiday. It proves that sustainable projects can be put in place to have a positive impact on people and on communities. I feel this shows that fighting for the right to a holiday is important.

What ATD Fourth World is all about

Above all, what connects Frimhurst and La Bise is the conviction that no one should be left behind. These projects create the conditions for people in deep poverty to experience holidays with friends and family, and get away from the daily pressures of life.

“It is not right that someone going through extreme poverty has to do it on their own. In ATD Fourth World, we show them that they are not alone.”

— Sylvain, team member in La Bise

This also shows the many ways in which one can engage in anti-poverty work. This can happen by working directly with people experiencing poverty, organising holiday stays, cooking and housekeeping, developing local outreach to families and friends, or facilitating arts-and-crafts workshops. It can be for just one summer or for years on end. Every role is necessary to projects like those in Frimhurst and La Bise, and contributes to alleviate isolation and inequalities.

Would you like to support projects like this and help us continue our anti-work to eradicate poverty? Visit to find out how you can help.