During their 140th Anniversary year, local members notched up sponsored miles to fundraise for this event. The aim was to provide an adventure experience for children who, for whatever reason, may not have other opportunities for days out during the Easter school holiday.
“Initially, we contacted clergy in some of our county’s more socially-deprived areas to offer to fund them to take a group of their children to the Centre,” explains MU President Marguerite Phillips. “We wanted give them an opportunity to affirm the importance of children in our congregations at a time when many parishes struggle to attract the numbers needed form peer-age friendship groups for children’s activities.
“We enabled a group of 16 youngsters from St Francis, Heartsease to go, but otherwise had little take-up. So then we took the riskier step of taking over the centre for a fixed date so that parishes with only a few church children had the chance to send them to an event such as this, and the response was terrific.”
Felicity Randall, organiser of the Big Day Out takes up the story:
“We had an amazing day at the Horstead Activity Centre. Some of the children were very confident and quite a few a little apprehensive. Everyone was soon allocated to one of four groups and off they went – to climb the tower; practice archery, stack crates (a bit puzzled about that one!) or canoe on the river.
“The day went like clockwork, all credit to the activity team at Horstead. No tears or tantrums, every child tried their very best and several surprised themselves with their achievements. Some had seconds and even thirds of the barbecue lunch.
The best way to hear about the Big Day Out is the children’s own words:
“I’m loving it; thank you!”
“The Zip Wire was the very best.”
“Everything is best!”
“I hate heights, but I really loved being on the Zip Wire!”
“ On the Zip Wire, I got to be like an alien spaceship.”
“We only got to know each other today, it was great.”
“You get to know how to paddle a canoe and it’s really fun. I nearly fell in!”
Some more responses came from the adults who stayed with their groups:
“Lovely to see children we don’t know very well really enjoying themselves”
“Brilliant! The children from my group are mixing well with everyone. It’s a great day”
“The quiet ones have come alive.”
“I couldn’t believe my daughter, who was very clingy when we arrived, actually took a full part in the Crate Stack”
A few comments from clergy:
“It’s wonderful to see children have a fun time. My children would love to have this day again next year and I thank the Mothers’ Union for arranging it. I recommend it be held again for the good future of the church.”
“I haven’t seen one of our group smile so much for a very long time.”
Felicity concludes: “The only hiccough was a little confusion about the ending time, but extra food was produced for those who had to wait. So the day had to come to an end – and finally, the sun came out. I know I came away tired and happy – and I had done nothing but watch!”