Mia’s first time at the seaside
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The moment the young girl’s dreams finally came true was magical. Gasping at the sight of the ocean, the four-year old squealed in delight, then sprinted excitedly to the waves.
It was the first time Mia had been to the seaside. Like many struggling families in Britain, a holiday by the sea was beyond the reach of her grandmother Linda Cole, who had cared for her since she was a toddler.
And despite hearing Mia’s pleas to go to the beach like her nursery friends had, Linda feared she would never be able to afford the gift she most wanted to give her.
But she got to see Mia’s dream come true thanks to the Family Holiday Association, which helps hardworking families give their children the British beach experience that has become an unaffordable luxury for many.
Linda, 59, from Birmingham, said being able to take Mia for a four-night break at Haven’s Devon Cliffs Holiday Park in Devon, where they stayed in a caravan, was “unforgettable”.
She says: “A lot of her friends had come back from holidays by the sea and she kept asking me if we could go too. I felt sad for her that I wasn’t able to take her. I’ve never seen her so excited, from the moment she found out she was going to the moment we walked to the beach for the first time. She screamed and said ‘Wow!’
“Every day she would get up first, eager to go back to the beach. She’d build sandcastles, find shells, play in the waves.
“Later we’d go to the arcades and she also loved throwing bread to the seagulls. It was so great to see her enjoying herself and for both of us to create memories together.”
Mia says: “It was amazing. What I liked most was jumping in the sea. I want to go back.”
Linda took Mia and her three brothers in to live with her when Mia was 18 months old, as their mother struggled with a heroin problem. The boys later went to live with their father.
Trying to help her wayward daughter while doing what she could to protect and provide for her granddaughter took its toll on the single grandmum. Linda had a heart attack in 2016, which she puts down to the pressure she was under. But she says things are now improving and her daughter has been off drugs for a year.
Dedicated to bringing up Mia as well as she can, as well as providing for her other grandchildren, she struggles to get by on £300 a week.
She said: “I don’t bother about myself and when I need clothes I go to the charity shops. You’re only going to be a child once, so I wanted to give them the best upbringing they can have. But the budget is really tight and I feel bad when I can’t give them the things they want.
“When Mia asked if she could go to the seaside it broke my heart. I knew it was one of those things I’d never be able to afford for her.”
Staff from Mia’s crèche, Grendon and Billesley Nursery and Family Centre, put Linda in touch with the Family Holiday Association.
As well as providing the free four-night break at the holiday park, the organisation gave the family £60 spending money for their trip.
Linda said: ”It was a lovely caravan. The beach was just a few minutes away and we could hear the waves as we slept.
“It was so tranquil and I noticed how Mia became calmer and less agitated while she was there. It was such a restful time for me too, I was able to relax and recharge my batteries, which I really needed.
“I’m so grateful for the experience.”