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was right for him, at eight years old. We felt comfortable with SSAFA’s skills. We had a good amount of information on how it was going to run. Being informed is empowering. We were very excited about it as it looked really fabulous for him and we told him, ‘You’re going to go away on a special adventure’. With autism, if you give a child a good amount of information in advance he can be ready for the experience when you arrive. There was a good induction process when we got there and we had confidence in the SSAFA set up. We were keen to know how he was getting on and we stayed locally so if things had not worked out we were only about 20 miles away but he absolutely loved it. He loved the activities, his carer and his scrapbook of the week.

“We went to the other side of Exmoor, stayed in a cottage and had some quiet time. It was when the Olympics were on so we were able to have a look round the area and also follow some of the games. We are so grateful for the continuing support of SSAFA throughout the years. Sometimes it’s not the obvious things but the more subtle forms of support. Just knowing that Ryan had been accepted on a SSAFA holiday in the past has made all the difference – knowing he will get that special time for himself.”

George’s story

George Price, aged 10, has Down’s Syndrome. His father is in the Army and George lives with his parents and older sister Charlotte, 14, on a base in Hampshire. He regularly attends the SSAFA Forces Help Short Break for children with an additional need or disability.

His mum, Rachel, said: “George does not have very much speech but he says it’s his favourite holiday. He absolutely loves it. He loves his friends and he loves sharing a room and he comes home brimming with confidence.

“It’s very nerve-racking as a parent of any child, but particularly a child like George, to leave them with somebody who is not family. It’s a big step from a parent’s point of view but it’s a really positive step because you can’t keep

hold of them forever. It’s not the sort of break we could do as a family so it is wonderful for him to have that opportunity.

“George has no awareness of any danger. He wants to be independent so he will just walk off. On an Army estate I can’t just let him go out and play because I can’t trust that he will come back. This break gives him the chance to go and do something on his own and we know he is being well taken care of. It gives him a little bit of independence.

“And while we know he is having fun and being well looked after on a Short Break it gives us the chance to spend one-to-one time with Charlotte.”

Holiday leader Emma Barnes said: “The breaks are all about giving children the chance to learn, gain independence, build confidence and make new friends, and we also hold a disco and a talent show at the end of the week. Not only is it a great week for the children, it also gives parents or carers a break and some time to go on a small holiday themselves.”

Details SSAFA covers the full cost of the break, we only ask that parents transport their children to and from the venue and contribute a small amount towards pocket money for the week.

Short Break for Siblings and Young Carers. 26 May-1 Jun 13

Southeast Hampshire YMCA, Fairthorne Manor, Southampton

For children aged 8 to 12 years who have a brother or sister who has a disability or additional need or are a young carer of a disabled parent. Closing date for applications is 29 Feb 13.

Short Break for Children with Additional Needs and Disabilities. 3-8 Aug 13

Calvert Trust Exmoor, Barnstaple, Devon

For children aged eight to 14 years with a disability or additional needs. Each child will be allocated his or her own trained and vetted volunteer coach. Closing date for applications is 29 Mar 13.

Holiday Volunteers – Could you help? These holidays are only possible with the help of a dedicated team of coaches who volunteer their time. They work with staff to ensure that the children are safe and happy while away from home, and get to know the children and support them in challenging themselves. We recruit new coaches each year so please get in touch for more information.

Being a coach can sometimes be hard work but it is always rewarding. No previous experience is necessary, although this would be an advantage. You must be over 18 years of age, have a good sense of humour, a reasonable level of fitness and a total commitment and dedication to children.

Applicants are required to undergo vetting checks and attend a one day information day followed by a two day preparation weekend.

Parents, carers and potential volunteers should contact the Short Breaks Team on 020 7463 9275 or for further information.

More about SSAFA

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association is the national charity for those who serve in our Armed Forces, those who used to serve, and the families of both. Their commitment is to provide a lifetime of support to anyone who has ever served. Each year, SSAFA trained staff and network of 7,500 volunteers provide practical support and assistance to more than 50,000 people, from D-Day veterans to young service personnel wounded in Afghanistan. Envoy Spring 2013 47

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