At the end of October, money raised from this year's fete was presented to Richard Hyde on behalf of Bristol Childrens' Help Society otherwise known as Barton Camp. Barton Camp own residential premises between Winscombe and Compton Bishop where disadvantaged children of primary school, mainly from Bristol but also from Somerset, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset, can enjoy a free or subsidised Holiday Respite Break or Out of School Learning Week.
The charity was founded in 1884 as The Penny Dinner Society; following the introduction of compulsory school attendance in 1870s, it became apparent that a significant number of children were not just dressed in rags without boots or shoes, but were also starving. So the idea was that for a penny, a child would be given a meal, but the most needy did not have a halfpenny, never mind a penny. So money was raised, and in 1885 over 15,000 meals in total were served, not all for free. 2 years later, having changed the charity’s name to Bristol Children’s Help Society, the first group of children were taken for a holiday to Barton, and apart from breaks during the 2 World Wars, they have been going ever since.
The facilities now include a heated swimming pool, a sports hall, an activity room, a dining hall, 2 x 24 bed dormitories, a self contained stand alone accommodation unit for 30 children and their adult carers, swings, an adventure trail, an orienteering course, a nature trail, 2 willow mazes and a wildlife hut., all on a 7 acre site below Crooks Peak. Last year over 2800 children spent time at Barton, some for a night, some for a week, and of those 224 came completely free.
A stay at Barton does more than give needy children a holiday in the Mendip countryside; it is not commonly known that areas of Bristol suffer from extreme deprivation; over 9000 children of primary school age live in areas which fall within the worst 10 % in United Kingdom, 24 wards are in the worst 5 %, with 1 being in the worst 1 % . Many of the children come from these inner city areas, and discover at Barton that life can be lived very differently from their normal experience. They will meet adults who are not threatening, but helpful, kind and prepared to listen to them; they will make new friends from other schools, experience communal living in the dormitories and dining hall and for some it will be their first night away from home. They will have the opportunity to learn new skills such as swimming, create new interests from the Orienteering Course or Nature Trail. They will succeed, gain in self confidence and leave with positive and happy memories which will help sustain those who endure a difficult home life.
More importantly, teachers report not only lasting improved behaviour and emotional well being, but also an enhanced willingness to learn and achieve at school; the Society believes that any initiative which helps these children achieve a measure of academic success, leading to further education, employment or training when they leave school, will help the cycle of deprivation and is really worth striving for.
The very generous donation received as a result of many people’s hard work at the Village Fete will enable the Society to give 10 needy children a holiday at Barton Camp.