THE headteacher of a Derbyshire secondary school is giving up his summer holiday to help disadvantaged children in the county enjoy a much-needed holiday.
Ben Riggott and his wife Laila – a former primary school teacher who now works with ethical Early Years equipment provider Cosy – will spend a week in July leading fellow volunteers at Derby Kids’ Camp.
The charity, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is looking for further help, though to successfully run the camp, which will provide more than 300 children with a week-long holiday throughout the six-week holidays.
As well as assistants to camp leaders Ben and Laila, Derby Kids’ Camp are seeking a chef or cook to prepare and serve food on-site.
Ben, head at Parkside Community School and brother of former Derby County footballer Chris Riggott, said:
“Derby Kids’ Camp gives children the chance to be, well, children.
“They do incredible work. Laila and I heard of their achievements through patrons Peter and Amanda Ellse, who we have known for years. They encouraged us to volunteer and, this year, we’ll be leading the camp for the first time.
“The charity does, though, rely completely on volunteers and that’s why we’re making this plea for more people to get involved.
“Volunteering gives you that feel-good factor and for those wanting to work with children say, as teachers, it is a great thing to have on your CV.”
Reliance on volunteers means the charity is only able to run to its full capacity if there are enough staff to cover the six weeks of camp. Laila and Ben are preparing for their week in the summer and are eager to bring a full team on board with them to bring to life an adventure for the children who have been nominated for a break by their school.
“We were told that one year a week had to be cancelled because they just didn’t have enough volunteers, which meant up to 60 kids missed out on a holiday when they may have desperately needed one.
“After experiencing its impact on young people, Ben and I really didn’t want that to be the case again, so thought we would do something about it and volunteer ourselves.”
Many of the children who attend Derby Kids’ Camp are living in poverty or have suffered bereavement. They may be finding social interaction difficult after the past couple of years and subsequent lockdowns.
Their week at Derby Kids’ Camp – where they get to take part in craft activities, cave climbing and swimming – gives them the chance to try out new activities and explore new surroundings.
Children stay in cosy tents that are equipped with comfortable camp beds, complete with bouncy mattresses, snuggly duvets and blankets, and the site has a fully-equipped kitchen with electricity and running water.
Volunteers are supported by an experienced team and opportunities can range from being part of the welfare team to helping with catering and medical. Fundraising events take place throughout the year, too, with a team of runners recently raising more than £2,000 by completing the Derby 10k.
“You get so much support as a volunteer, and as Derby Kids’ Camp has been running for 50 years, they know exactly what they are doing and are experienced in onboarding volunteers and making you feel comfortable.
“They also provide detailed training and mentoring to help you too, so no one is left to feel out of their depth.”
Derby Kids’ Camp have registered for The Big Help Out; the UK-wide initiative to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III and the Queen Consort that encourages people to help out in the community.
Members of the public can register their interest in becoming a volunteer via The Big Help Out website, or directly on the Derby Kids’ Camp web page here: https://derbykidscamp.co.uk/volunteer-application-pack/.