Children who attend Airplay, the RAF Benevolent Fund's youth support programme, have written to isolated elderly members of the RAF Family during the coronavirus lockdown. In total, 220 veterans received letters from RAF children.
Among the recipients was 94-year-old RAF widow Eileen Cockburn who lives in Basildon. On VE Day, Eileen dressed up in red, white and blue and wore her late husband's medals, hoping to speak to neighbours and passers-by from her garden. However, no-one passed by and after several hours she returned indoors feeling quite dejected and lonely. Eileen was delighted when the letters arrived several days later.
Eileen said: "Receiving their letters was the best thing that could happen to a 93-year-old lady who has been stuck indoors on her own for nine or 10 weeks. I was feeling quite down but I felt so different when I started reading the letters."
In addition to receiving the Airplay letters, Eileen has previously been assisted by the Fund with property repairs and household costs. Since the COVID-19 lockdown began, she has also received a weekly Check and Chat call from someone the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The RAF Benevolent Fund supports RAF personnel, veterans and their families when times get tough. The Fund has launched a number of initiatives in response to the COVID-19 crisis including grants to stations to spend on resources for RAF children during lockdown and an online application form allowing veterans to apply for support up to £750.
Airplay is a multi-million-pound scheme providing youth work programmes and activities on RAF stations for children from eight to 18, alongside Ben Club which supports children aged five to eight. To provide the service, the Fund works with children’s charity Action for Children. Due to the lockdown, Airplay and Ben Club sessions have been temporarily paused.
The RAF Benevolent Fund recently launched Airplay Digital, an online platform that provides additional support to the Airplay youth clubs. The platform, developed by the Fund’s Airplay partners Action for Children, was due to be introduced later this year but was brought forward to help children who are isolated while at home under lockdown restrictions.