“Mum, we need to do this more often.” Andrea’s son Simon voiced what the whole family was thinking the minute they got back to London after a three-night caravan holiday with Family Holiday Charity.
For Andrea, who has looked after her 12-year-old granddaughter Kari since she was little, the time spent on Hayling Island was a particularly opportune break.
Kari sees little of her mum, and then three years ago, Kari’s dad collapsed with sepsis and had to have both hands and legs amputated.
Despite growing up in such difficult circumstances, Kari is doing really well at school and excels at ballet. Andrea describes her as “a person who wants to know how to do everything. She’s got so many dreams.”
When a rare chance for three generations of the family to get away came along, Andrea welcomed it with open arms. Due to money restrictions, she hadn’t been anywhere with her twin sons since taking them to Canada when they were much younger.
So off they all went last November, together with Kari, her cousin and one of her son’s girlfriends. Nobody had been to the area before so Kari researched it online before they left. “Oh grandma, it’s going to be amazing,” she told Andrea. “There’s a pool, we can go swimming.”
After the ups and downs of the past few years, Andrea was really struck by the sense of peace and quiet.
Slowly, everybody started to unwind - helped by leisurely beachfront strolls, cake on the pier, and a ride on the little ‘toy’ train (because you’re never too old!).
One of Andrea’s sons taught Kari how to play pool and, by trying a different restaurant every night, Kari soon discovered that her favourite food is sushi.
The fresh air and change of scene were just what Andrea in particular needed. “We walked around the countryside, by the sea. It was such a therapeutic holiday. It was like we were free. There were no crowds anywhere.”
She was able to put the dark days behind her for a while.
"You can’t imagine how difficult it was when Kari’s dad got sepsis. I had my mum living with us who had dementia. I had Kari to take to school and I’ve had lupus for the past 18 years. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t go on."
When they got back from Hayling Island, Andrea found that she was sleeping better and she noticed that both Kari and her cousin seemed happier. “We appreciate the faith someone put in us and our family,” she says of the whole experience. She goes on to say: "It would help a lot of families who cannot afford to go on holiday to get the opportunity to just go and have some time together.