RAF Brize Norton children attend summer residential break supported by Exolum
From 7-11 August, RAF Brize Norton held its own five-night residential stay taking 78 young people who attend Airplay, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s flagship youth support programme, to an adventure camp in Shropshire.
The Big Brize Adventure Camp residential was hosted by RAF Brize Norton’s Community Support team and volunteer service personnel and supported by the Fund, Exolum International UK, BFBS and RAF Brize Norton. The initiative saw 78 children and young people of service personnel at the unit take part in a range of activities across five days at Manor Adventure in Shropshire.
Airplay is the Fund’s national youth work programme, which provides a safe and fun place for the children and young people of the RAF Family across 28 stations, to learn and interact with their peers.
RAF Brize Norton is the largest RAF Station with around 5000 personnel and represents approximately 25 per cent of serving families. Whilst the Airplay Air Breaks usually combine children from all RAF Stations, a need was identified to allow children and young people from the Brize Norton service families to go on their own station-led break in 2023.
Jessica Price, Community Development Officer at Brize Norton said: "Building on the long-standing success of the centrally organised MoD residential, we wanted to run our own Station-led youth break to offer the opportunity to more families. We’d like to say a huge thank you for the support from our funders which has enabled us to make this ambition a reality.
Jessica continued: “A lot of work goes into running these breaks but seeing the children make new friends, conquer fears on the high ropes or water sports and be able to give a mum or dad who’s flying solo whilst their partners are on exercise or deployment makes it all super worthwhile.
"The Big Brize Adventure Break was a great example of RAF Community Support and Airplay working collaboratively to deliver high quality activities for military families and at RAF Brize Norton we’re incredibly proud of the ongoing success of this offering for children and families."
This year, Exolum International UK, a corporate partner of the Fund, donated £35,000 towards the Station Grants programme, with £15,000 going towards the residential.
Exolum's NW Europe Lead, Nacho Casajús, said: "Over the past few years, the RAF Benevolent Fund's Airplay programme has given the children and young people of serving families much-needed time to rest, recuperate and enjoy themselves during the summer months. We’re delighted to be able to give back and contribute towards an initiative which makes such a difference to the lives of the RAF Family."
Nacho continued: “We admire the Armed Forces and the sacrifices that serving RAF personnel and their families make every day in service of their country, so for us it’s an honour to show our support and appreciation for their selfless work through our sponsorship of the RAF Brize Norton residential.”
Ayleila, a Station Youth Worker at Brize Norton who has been working on the Airplay programme for the past five years, said: "Airplay allows us the freedom to deliver a variety of play and youth activities for the RAF Brize Norton community. With support from the station, the RAF Benevolent Fund, and other external partners, we can provide regular activities and trips for our young people. I see children hold themselves back from building friendships and connections as they don’t know how long they’ll be in one place. Airplay offers children a fun, safe and inclusive place to go and is facilitated all over the country. This ensures continuity for the children when their parents are posted to different bases."
Marnie, aged nine, attended the break and said: "I made lots of new friends on the trip including two new best friends. We got to have time away from our parents (and they got time away from us!). My favourite activities had to be the high ropes and the zipline."
Sam, aged 10, said: "Our mums and dads are in the military, and they want us to meet other children in the same situation. I really cherish getting to do these things! It’s important to have people to play with and make new friends when our parents must work, especially when they’re away in a foreign country for a long time. We get to do things that other children might not be able to, like this residential trip; it makes me feel special.
Sam continued: "I go to a school where there’s not many military children, so this week I was excited to have the chance to make new friends who also have parents in the RAF. And I got to have a week away from my little sister!"
You can find out more about the Airplay programme here.