The Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund has officially opened the doors to two new seaside apartments, providing welfare breaks for the RAF, at its respite care home Princess Marina House on the South coast.
HRH The Duke of Kent unveiled an official plaque to commemorate the opening of Harlequin House and Jesters Court following a successful fundraising appeal to fund the project. Part of this was raised by the April Fools’ Club whose yomp across the Falklands in June contributed more than £200,000 to the project. A further £178,000 was raised with general donations from The RAF Central Fund (£50,000), The J H Bartlett Charity (£50,000), Breitling (£48,500) and the Royal Air Force Charitable Trust (£30,000).
The Duke spent time touring the apartments, which will be used to provide welfare breaks for serving RAF personnel and their families, before meeting RAF Benevolent Fund beneficiaries and supporters.
Before unveiling a plaque to commemorate the occasion the Duke said: "What a pleasure it is to come back to this wonderful facility. Each time I come here something else has been added and improved."
Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, Director of Welfare and Policy at the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "Supporting serving personnel in their time of need stands at the very heart of the RAF Benevolent Fund's mission to provide for the RAF Family. There are many challenges facing RAF families and providing some time away from the stresses and strains of military life is vital.
"Parliament's recent decision to conduct air strikes in Syria, involving the deployment of more RAF personnel overseas, only serves to remind us of the importance of the work that RAF personnel undertake and the risks and stresses they face.
"The seaside apartments will allow us to offer welfare breaks to twice as many families as we could previously do. We could not have done this without our generous supporters who helped fund this project."
Service families face many challenges including long periods of time on operational deployment and other forms of separation and frequent moves, so the new apartments will provide a home away from home for the families to reconnect and spend quality time together. PMH already provides two seaside cottages, Seacot and Shencot, for serving RAF families which are fully booked throughout the year and the two new seaside apartments will double capacity.
Squadron Leader Tim Thresher and his family took up the offer of a welfare break earlier this year. He explained how important the trip was for his family. He said: "I had been working at RAF Cranwell while my family remained in Wiltshire, so time together was short. A break all together was just what we needed.
"Also having Princess Marina House next door gave my mother-in-law the peace of mind to travel with us and enjoy a wonderful family holiday."
To apply for a welfare break at one of the seaside cottages or apartments complete an enquiry form here.