The last week has been the toughest week that I can remember for Bath Rugby Foundation… a week when our incredible team took a tough body blow.

Our charity, and its amazing local partners (29 charities, non-profits, and small businesses) were unsuccessful in tendering for an opportunity to take our work with vulnerable children to the next level.

Last week, we were told that we had been unsuccessful in our bid to win 3 years’ worth of funding targeted at the 4,200 children in our region whose families struggle to put food on the table.

Even writing that sentence hurts so much.

Rewind to 2018… Our charity, which had already been a lifeline for thousands of vulnerable children since its inception in 2003, came see that the school holidays were fast becoming the toughest time for families living in poverty. Because we worked closely with these families, we knew financial pressures were growing, and the grip poverty had on their lives was becoming unbearable.

We knew we had to act… Our fundraising team reached out to its database of kind donors, who unequivocally stepped up, allowing our coaches to step in to provide summer camps for local families in need. We had two clear objectives for our summer camps – to take the pressure off parents, and to bring some joy to their children.

At this point our day camps were not the most sophisticated, not the camps most parents imagine for their children.

The reality was our coaches bought the sliced bread and packet ham to make sandwiches and the highlight of the summer was a makeshift slip and slide session.

That said, it didn’t matter, it was an incredible summer for everyone involved, and children went back to school in September with stories to tell, something that many of them may not have been able to do, had it not been for our camps.

Fast forward to 2020 and we had gained some real momentum – our camps were growing, and the packet ham sandwiches were replaced with picnics and hot meals. We even managed some special day trips to the beach.

Then in March that year the pandemic hit, as for many, it was a huge shock to us all.

Despite the financial threat to our charity (losing sight of £250,000 overnight), we knew we had to find a way to help. Donors, foundations, and rugby supporters saved the day with their generous donations of money and time, and so, Summer BreakOut 2020 happened.

The setbacks kept coming but we kept going….

At the end of February 2021 there was a glimmer of hope. We were contacted by B&NES Council and asked to lead a Holidays, Activities and Food (HAF) Programme. National funding had become available, and we were asked to deliver a massive programme during the Easter, Summer, and Christmas school holidays.

We had a few short weeks to scale up, but thanks to many people working long days and often well into the night, we made it happen. Thanks to this effort and our incredible partners, 2021 was the most impactful to date.

When the children needed us the most, we were there. The foundations we had spent many years laying meant we were able to respond - we had the local relationships needed to act fast. What followed was something special; local people, helping local people.

It fills my heart to say:

  • Upwards of 2,000 children and young people across B&NES accessed BreakOut and over 7,500 meals were made and eaten
  • We provided 14 hubs, 32 park camps, A hub for children with additional educational needs and over 200 external day camps
  • Over 700 food parcels were taken home to support with further meals

(12 meals in each parcel, 8,400 meals in total)  

  • Of the 4,237 young people across B&NES who are eligible for FSM based on the recent Census, BreakOut has provided support to 38% of the families (one of the highest engagement rates of all the local authorities across England, with a national target of 30%)  
  • Delivered nearly 300 sessions (4 hours each, 1,200 hours) of fun, creative and adventurous experiences and provided almost an additional month’s worth of safe and secure social activities for families most in need during this pandemic year

Proud doesn’t even begin to cover it.

In January 2022, we heard the funding would extend for another 3 years but we were told, despite our work to date, we would need to take part in a national tender process.

Dozens of conversations followed with existing and prospective new partners. 7,000 heartfelt words to show and share our passion for HAF and the families it supports were crafted, and 35 documents later, we submitted our tender. We had no sense of entitlement, we put our hearts and souls into that tender, and we remained hopeful that we would be able to continue to make a difference to our beloved community, alongside our amazing partners during the school holidays.

However, we were unsuccessful, and another organisation was granted the privilege of building relationships with these amazing families.

As a team and a community, we are not just disappointed, we are left feeling absolutely devastated.

However, we are now being called on the practice what we preach, to learn and develop from this experience.

We WILL continue our work in the B&NES community with smiles on our faces, and we WILL continue to be the go-to organisation for children, young people, and their families in the region.

We were here before the pandemic, during the pandemic and WILL be here long after.

We live, we learn, we grow, we move forward.

Here’s a proud look back at just some of our school holiday work over the last few years:-