When Louise, her husband and two children set off to the South Downs, they were very excited indeed. It was their first ever holiday, courtesy of YHA project 90, a scheme providing breaks to families in celebration of YHA’s 90th anniversary.
There’s lots of love in Louise’s household – they call it happy chaos. Louise has a bright, optimistic tone as she talks about her family and life. The reality though is that while her husband works full time, with 4 kids, there’s not much money to go around beyond the day-to-day essentials. No way to save and survive the day to day. “If anything else is needed it puts pressure on” Louise admitted.
Lockdown and the pandemic added a different dynamic and was a mixed blessing. Everyone loved Dad being at home and around, but there’s no denying home-schooling 4 children was hard work! Financially things were really difficult, and Louise is eternally grateful to the school for helping with food parcels. “Without them, things would have been really horrendous” Louise acknowledges. The school have been a really strong support for the whole family, and its them that referred them for a break. “My friend was upset that we could never afford to get away … she couldn’t refer us herself but found the school could”
“We’ve never been abroad before – the school were shocked” Louise tells us. “Whenever we used to pass a Premier Inn or anywhere similar, the kids would ask if we could stay – and I had to explain that we couldn’t. We’ve never stayed overnight anywhere else with the children”.
And so when Family Holiday Association offered the family a break at YHA South Downs “I cried, happy tears” Louise recalled “The children cried too, they didn’t believe me at first, then they started to pack straight away and had fun packing their stuff, and kept asking how long until we were going and checking the days”. The kids wanted to go on the train, but it was too expensive for all of them, so the family went in the car, singing songs along the way. The family had no idea what to expect – but they managed to pack a lot into their two-night stay.
“On the first day, we went to the local area – the castle in Lewes is free. We had dinner and went to bed. On the last day we did a day hike in the area, took pictures and watched the sunset. The staff didn’t mind the children causing happy chaos and were so nice” Louise explained. “I kept telling the kids that we need to appreciate this moment and the little things because we are so lucky, and we soaked it all up”.
One of the family’s favourite moments was arriving at YHA South Downs as they had no idea what to expect but received the warmest of welcomes, more than they could ever hope.
“We were so welcomed, and all the staff Ross, James, Lesley made such a fuss, we felt so comfortable … they didn’t mind the kids running around, my daughter gave Lesley a hug when we left and was in tears as she didn’t want to leave the lovely staff. They couldn’t have been more helpful – on the last day we didn’t want to wake the kids for an early breakfast, so the staff made them a bacon bap and croissants to go so they didn’t miss out”.
One of Louise’s personal favourite moments was after the kids were in bed, watching the Summer Olympics on TV with her husband in the communal area, having an adult conversation, chatting without the chaos of home and a chorus of “why”. “I really enjoyed just not being at home”, Louise laughed.
And now she’s home again, Louise feels brighter and more positive about the future. “As soon as I got home, I actually wanted to clean the house, I had so much energy. I wanted to clean and do the washing and clean the windows and do a bit of decorating”, Louise confided. And it hasn’t stopped there “I have been wondering if I could get a little part time job when my daughter starts school, just to have something for me. My husband works really hard but it’s a low salary and a little part time job might mean we could do more, even go away again”.
The children have learned a lot too – they are more polite and patient, waiting their turn. And they have learned to appreciate their food too. “When we were away, we had our food catered for and the children tried more things when they were there. Now they try more things, and I am not cooking a million different things – it’s just one meal for us all now, so I am saving money and time as they eat the same meal. They have realised and appreciate it more”.