Families at RAF Shawbury in Shropshire enjoyed a range of special activities on 13 September to celebrate the opening of its new Airplay parks – new state-of-the-art play areas for young people living on or around the RAF station.
The Airplay parks are part of the RAF Benevolent Fund's £24million Airplay programme for children and young people, which is also funding trained Airplay youth workers to support RAF staff at the station.
The new Airplay parks were opened by Martin Henshaw, Regional Director for the RAF Benevolent Fund. He said:
"RAF children face many unique challenges. Parents can deploy overseas at short notice, sometimes to war zones. Families move around the country as operations demand, often to stations in isolated, rural locations where children must make new friends and start at new schools. It is not always easy.
"That's why the RAF Benevolent Fund has developed the Airplay programme. Here at Shawbury we are delivering the full spectrum of Airplay support.
"We have already built a new Airplay childcare centre as well as these splendid new games areas and we are also funding trained youth workers to support the community team. In this way we can help the RAF provide some continuity of support and take some of the pressure off busy parents – at home and on the front line."
RAF personnel used to organise activities for young people on stations, but due to increased operational commitments, staff no longer have the capacity to do this. Airplay youth workers (delivered in partnership with National Charity 4Children) help fill the gap, giving RAF Community Support Teams the extra trained staffing support they need. The station’s Airplay parks will also give children easy access to state-of-the-art play and games facilities.
80 Airplay Youth Workers are in now position at RAF stations across the country, with around 1600 children and young people accessing services they support over the last year. Over 40 new Airplay parks have been constructed, with many more to come over the coming year. Finally, over £13 million has already been spent constructing Airplay childcare centres at 28 RAF stations, providing 1800 places for children aged 0-5 last year.
Group Captain James said: "This marks a further step change in the integration, outreach and community support that RAF Shawbury is well known for. The support offered by the RAF Benevolent Fund's Airplay programme is warmly welcomed in and across the wider Shawbury area and helps us provide massively better facilities for a wide range of young people in our communities."
The event was organised by the Station Community Development Worker, Gail Moore, who said: "The Station is proud to open the park through an excellent working relationship with the RAF Benevolent Fund and Shropshire Council. The Station already supplements its Community Outreach Team with Airplay youth workers, funded by the RAF Benevolent Fund, and this relationship assures that Shawbury families, as well as the local community, benefit from some excellent facilities."
Charles Ellis, Deputy Chief Executive of 4Children said: "It is great that so many RAF families were able to join in and celebrate Airplay at RAF Shawbury.
"We’'e delighted that Airplay youth workers are working so well with RAF Community Development staff across the country and look forward to seeing our working partnership grow and prosper in the coming months."