When schoolchildren across London are asked to write about what they did during the summer holidays this year, they’ll have so many stories to tell, their teachers will be amazed.

Children and young people from Barnet, Brent, Camden, Ealing Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster will have adventures they’ve only dreamed of up to now.

It’s all thanks to John Lyon’s Charity which has committed £375,000 from its School Holiday Activity Fund (SHAF) to support activities for children and young people in these London boroughs.

The Charity’s Chief Executive, Dr Lynne Guyton, says:

“We are not embarrassed to say that we call the SHAF our ‘FUN’ fund.  It is about funding projects that allow children and young people the opportunity to do something exciting, entertaining but also to relax and learn through play.”

For many families, the long summer holiday is not filled with day trips, or fun and the financial strain of feeding and keeping children entertained is a real day-to-day challenge. John Lyon’s Charity believes its funding will relieve holiday “activity hunger” by helping local groups and organisations to run a range of activities and programmes during school holidays. Most of these will be free to those who attend. This year, more than 70 organisations are benefiting from John Lyon’s Charity holiday funding.

One of the groups being supported in Barnet is BritSom, a supplementary school based in Edgware. During term time, BritSom runs a supplementary school for young people from Somali and other African communities. This summer, BritSom will run a four-week programme of activities for 20 young people who attend the supplementary school. They’ll be doing arts and crafts, going on outings and playing indoor games, including football, table tennis, softball and air hockey. John Lyon’s Charity has awarded them a grant of £4,000 to cover all the costs. Chief Executive of BritSom, Abubakar Ali, believes the children and young people in Barnet who take part in the activities will develop self-esteem and team-building skills and the benefits the project brings will endure for the long-term:

“The project will provide a sense of personal achievement and enjoyment. It will also keep children and young people active and involved. They will play a greater role in their communities as contributors and this will help create vibrant and healthy communities.”

In Camden, one of the groups being supported is Three Acres Community Play Project, who provide out of school care for children aged 5 to 12 years old. During term times, Three Acres runs a breakfast club and after-school club and, during school holidays, an all-day play scheme. This year, Three Acres will give 60 of the older participants the opportunity to see Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre and 40 younger children to see Dinosaur Live at Regents Park Open Air Theatre. John Lyon’s Charity has awarded them a grant of £4,000 to cover the costs of the theatre tickets and a packed lunch.

Manager of Three Acres Community Play Project, Emma Daly, says they’ve been working for four years to secure funding for a theatre trip. She says they are thrilled to have been awarded the SHAF grant from John Lyon’s Charity:

“We conducted a survey amongst the children to find out what they knew about the theatre, if they have been and what they would like to see.  It was clear that the majority of children had never been to the theatre but importantly, EVERY child wanted to go!”

Meanwhile, children in Hammersmith & Fulham will be making a splash! Fulham Reach Boat Club, which works to provide access to the river and rowing to groups that would not normally have such an opportunity, will run three week-long summer holiday courses for up to 60 young people who receive the Pupil Premium. Activities will include sessions in rowing boats, kayaks and paddle boards, as well as safety on the water sessions, CPR and First Aid training. A special highlight is a trip on board Gloriana, the Queen’s Row Barge. John Lyon’s Charity has awarded a grant of £3,750 to cover the costs of the rowing coaches, Steven O’Connor believes the children and young people in Hammersmith & Fulham who take part will greatly benefit from these exciting activities in a number of ways:

“We want to see if we can use water sports and access to the Thames as a method to begin to address the issues of summer learning loss, lack of appropriate summer activities, food insecurity and involvement in anti-social behaviour.  At the very least, we hope to alleviate some of the disadvantage suffered by students from low-income families during the summer holidays.”