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Patrick and Joan

Family Holiday Charity - the ultimate gift of a lifetime

Thousands of families have been away on holiday because of Patrick and Joan Laurence. After their own family holiday gave them space and time to make happy memories together, they decided to help others – ‘if we feel better, other families might too’.

The Laurence’s were desperately sad and worried. Patrick was made redundant. They were living with Joan’s mum. Pamela, their eldest was really poorly. Their younger daughter, born with complex disabilities, lived for just three months before she passed away. 

Their doctor suggested that they needed a holiday – a breath of sea air. There was no way they could afford one. 

But when Peter, a school friend of Patrick’s, went away and offered his flat in Westcliff on Sea to to the family for a week, that all changed. 

Inspired!

A week by the sea made all the difference. Laughter and carefree days feeling the wind in their hair and the sand between their toes was just what they all needed. . After the holiday, Patrick, Joan and Pamela felt refreshed. They were able to look back and smile at shared memories and felt a sense of hope and resolve to move forward from the difficult times they were facing to a happier future. 

Joan wondered how other ordinary families in situations like theirs may feel if they had the chance to get away. 

Soon they’d started to collect donations towards their idea for a new charity. Patrick, a local councillor, asked fellow councillors to donate their expenses. Joan wrote to friends and relatives – and anyone else who she could think of - asking for £50 or whatever they could afford. 

By 1975, the Family Holiday Association was born. Next question – how would they find the families who needed a holiday the most? 

The Laurence’s agreed that families needed to be ‘under stress’ and not to have had a holiday for 3 years. With a small pot of funding and these criteria in mind, they approached social services departments, firstly in London, to ask if they knew anyone who may be able to benefit. 

Their own experiences of difficult times and the sense of renewal after a holiday led Pat and Joan to talk about holidays as being a necessity, rather than a luxury – something we still believe and talk about today. 

Today

Today, our name may be slightly different – Family Holiday Charity - but our core principles are absolutely the same. 

The space that holidays offer families away from the day-to-day is vital to wellbeing. The time is transformative - inspiring memories and something to look back on, as families move forwards.  

How and why families are referred for a holiday has evolved – but is true to the original spirit. How we find families is similar too. A network of referring partners, who work with families facing tough times, and who would benefit from the space and time a holiday brings, share information so a holiday can be offered. This helps make sure families whose need is greatest are at the front of the queue. 

While Patrick and Joan are no longer with us (passing away in 2008 and 2019 respectively), their gift actively lives on in Family Holiday Charity, a gift that has lasted more than a lifetime. 

Formerly known as Family Holiday Association (until December 2021).