For over 30 years, Oundle School Mencap Holidays has provided a week-long residential summer holiday for children and young people aged 8-18, with moderate and severe learning difficulties.
Each year we take 40 children and young adults, with a variety of learning difficulties. We organise on-site activities which range from team games and art activities to swimming and group theatre. Off-site each year we pay visits to the seaside, country parks and funfairs and might also take the children sailing, bowling or shopping. Each year’s holiday is themed, to add structure to some of the activities we do, with marquees and accommodation colourfully decorated according to a particular theme and with the children’s groups named in the same way.
The week’s core purpose is to provide new opportunities, a whole host of fun and interesting learning experiences to the fantastic people that come on our holiday.
We use on-site accommodation in Oundle, where the holiday is based, with one-on-one care throughout. During the daytime, children are in small groups (typically four in a group), with a different group of volunteers each day (but always with a minimum of one-on-one support). We get to know many of our young people very well and most want to come back year after year; we are often told stories of young people counting the number of sleeps to next year’s holiday. Please see the Families page for more detail about applying for a place and for more information.
The holiday is staffed entirely by volunteers, numbering around 75 in total each year. Junior volunteers are paired with the children, so each child shares a room every night with the same person or people; when children arrive at the beginning of the week, they will immediately be met a member of the senior team and their bedtime helper. Junior volunteers are overseen by seasoned group leaders and also the senior team, which is always on hand to offer extra help if necessary. We have an extremely experienced team of senior staff, most of whom have been helping to run the holiday for well over a decade, and many of whom hold professional skills which are utilised on the holiday, including a nurse, a doctor and several teachers.
We manage to keep the costs of the holiday low, given that all of our staff are volunteers. The charge for the holiday for one young person in 2013 was £260, and we also rely heavily on alternative sources of income to subsidise the remaining cost of the week. Holiday fees cover approximately one third of our yearly needs, with grants and funding covering approximately one third and fundraising by our volunteers and other interested parties covering the final third. We sincerely appreciate all of the efforts that people go to in order to support our holiday. More information can be found on the Support Us page.
We think that our holiday has a profound effect on three distinct groups of people. It gives the young people an incredibly popular holiday and an unique opportunity to undertake new, fun and educational experiences. It affords parents, carers and other family members a break from direct care, as for many of our young people it will be the only time they spend away from their home or school. And finally the volunteers, many of whom are young adults, typically leave with a fundamentally changed understanding of and attitude towards disability.