Summer is a coveted and memorable time for children alike. As schools and kindergartens close, boys and girls look forward to spending time outside, playing as much as possible and getting different social experiences. But parents, especially those living in vulnerable contexts, are often worried about losing precious support from school meals and group activities. Moreover, they have trouble reconciling their often-informal jobs with getting the specific help required by their little ones.
Every year NGO members of The Human Safety Net’s For Families programme notice that more and more families cannot afford paying for daycare or for vacations. They are very aware that their activities have a critical role in ensuring summer can be a moment of reconnection, relief and rest for everyone.
In the countries where The Human Safety Net is active, our NGOs ensure that children don't miss out on opportunities to get an adequate educational and confrontational space for their growth and future development.
At the end of the day what children appreciate the most of summer are experiences outside their routine and good moments.
ZPM Moste Polje in Ljubljana, Slovenia, aims to enable children who otherwise would not be able to afford going on holidays to spend quality time in their summer camps and have a great time with their peers.
"Our summer programmes are very important to us because we believe that all children should have the same opportunities and enjoy their childhood regardless of their family's socio-economic status," says a member of the NGO.
In fact, it consistently increases its support for children and families coming from a low socio-economic background. In addition to the regular activities, they organise two different summer camps at their facilities: one on the mountains and one on the Croatian seaside, plus dedicated daycare support for younger kids in Ljubljana during the whole summer. Furthermore, volunteers from Generali contribute by preparing backpacks filled with sport equipment, board games, tickets for pools, Zoo etc., to enjoy summertime as much as possible.
During summer camps, educators can better support the child’s development
In Spain, Associació Educativa Itaca develops socio-educational projects to promote an educational, safe and well-treated space for children and their families, covering the entire summer period from June to September. Excursions within the city, sports activities and days at the swimming pool - activities that many families would not be normally able to afford - make sure children and parents enjoy playful, educational and funny moments.
Fundación Balia in Madrid activates an Urban Summer Camp in June and July, from 9 am to 5 pm. It provides children with a safe, educational space where they can stay during part of their school holidays while at the same time facilitating family work-life balance. Kids say they have a lot of fun and get healthy food.
NGO educators say that spending more hours with children generates a stronger bond, allowing for more complete and in-depth support for the child's development. In addition, summer is also a great period to work on positive habits, such as healthy hygiene and eating routines.
Parents of children with special needs can connect with peers
At Leontinka Foundation, in the Czech Republic, Early Care Centres organise several outdoor activities for families with children with special needs. They can all meet together, experience the outdoors, and play with water, sand and other natural materials. During a yearly Festival of Puppets, they support a unique activity for visually impaired children.
Vladimíra Salvetová, from the Early Care Centre in Ostrava, comments: "In our work with children with special needs, we take special care also of parents who rarely have time to relax and have an everyday social life. The best opportunity to make up for this is our weekends with families. Parents can relax and connect with other mothers and fathers in similar life situations and experiences".
A monthly themed-play reward program encourages caregivers to improve their parenting skills
NGO Partner OneSky in Hong Kong proposes a themed play and a monthly reward program for vulnerable families to adapt to summertime. “Through weekly themes at the Centre and "DIY-at-home", we encourage caregivers to share their daily parent-child moments with us, demonstrating the parenting skills that they have learnt at the Centre. Building memories together, spending quality time by using recycled and commonly found materials strengthens the family bonds and improve children's self-esteem," comments Yannis Chan, a Senior Family Mentor at the centre.
A mother of a 3-year-old boy said: "I have never imagined that an egg can provide such a wide variety of learnings and games. Through an experiment, an art craft and "cooking" workshop, my child could develop his self-care ability, motor skills, and hand-eye coordination. More importantly, it was a wonderful way to spend quality family time with my kid."
One of the learnings from the post pandemic period is the importance of providing the right emotional support to caregivers. To do so, active listening and observation are key to provide constructive responses to their difficulties in childcare.