A Leicester woman who had a tough childhood has spoken about the huge difference a Leicester Children’s Holidays trip made to her life.
Naomi, aged 31, went to Mablethorpe with the charity when she was aged eight. For her, it was an escape from her life at home
Account manager Naomi, who currently lives in Leicester with her grandfather, said: “I saw things at home that a child should not see. My father was jailed seven times when I was growing up. For more than half of my childhood he was in prison.
“Along the way my mum and nana were my rocks. Without them both I am not sure I would have coped.”
The initial 2-week stay with Leicester Children’s Holidays in 1996 made a huge impact on her life. She said: “It suddenly allowed me to be a child again. I could have fun and it was so good to feel safe and carefree.
“When I was growing up, holidays for us were day trips to Skegness. I remember when we went back to school after the summer break we would have to stand in front of the class and speak about what we had done over the holidays. My younger sister still has to do that. For a few years, everyone else had been on holiday but not me.
“After my break with Leicester Children’s Holidays, at last I had something positive and good to say to my classmates.”
She grew up as only child and went away to Mablethorpe with the charity three times and, just like today, was put forward by her schools, first Coleman Primary and later Linden Primary.
And just like today, her mum and her nana took her to the charity’s headquarters at Holy Bones to check in the office and get on the coach. “I remember being terribly travel sick”, Naomi said. “My mum always handed me a carrier bag and a bottle of water just in case. But I always had an amazing time.
“I remember the dorms with 12 girls in each, the cold floors and choosing your bed. I always picked the same one. It was exciting for us children and we seemed to make friends easily.
“I don’t remember what film I watched last week but I remember vividly watching Star Wars at a little cinema owned by a lovely couple. It was a real treat.
“I remember playing on the beach, the obstacle course and the treasure hunt which was half on the beach and half in the house. There was a big playground too. My mum and nana were allowed to visit for a day and I proudly showed them around.
“One night the children all sat in the big living room together and watched Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
“We queued up to get handed some spending money and we went to the gift shop and I got presents for mum and nana. I bought a garden gnome one year!”
Naomi remembers how when she was very little, she was always daddy’s girl. She said: “But I grew up petrified of him. Mum protected me and I stayed a lot at my nana and grandad’s, the house where I live now. When my father was in prison we always managed. My mum even had to face court action by my father to get the right to see me.”
She left home at 18 and studied at De Montfort University and went to work in Birmingham as an account manager and now she is back living in Leicester.
Naomi said: “The experience with my father really made me push myself to be an adult. I grew up quickly. I legally ‘divorced’ my father when I was 13 and was determined to be successful and be nothing like him. I never smoked or even considered taking drugs.”
“I loved my holidays in Mablethorpe and I realised the value of a break. I thought the charity had closed down when the Mablethorpe centre shut but then I saw on LeicestershireLive Facebook site about children’s holidays.
“I had to go into the shop at Highcross in Leicester and realised it was the same charity which helped me 23 years ago. I gladly did some gift wrapping for them to help raise money and hope to volunteer again for them in the future.
“I will never forget those holidays and the memories I have are so vivid. I am just grateful the charity is still around to help children today.”
To volunteer at Leicester Children’s Holidays, go to the website at https://leicesterchildrensholidays.co.uk