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Embracing the Magic of Disney

“Paris enabled us to interact as a family outside our normal environment. Being around others that had experienced the trauma of death provided a platform where one felt validated to grieve. No longer a passive recipient but in charge and in control of our personal situations.

“In the midst of the darkness, the support and gift offered by Embrace shines a light onto the pathway of healing. This holiday made me feel validated and alive.”

These are the powerful words of a grieving mother who lost her 15-year-old son to knife-crime.

Thanks to your fund-raising efforts, hers was one of 15 young families in 2019 to have benefited from our unique and therapeutic holidays to Disneyland Paris.

Our long-established peer group support trips help families recovering from serious crime come together to share their experiences, to continue the healing process and –importantly – to make new and happy memories together.

This year Embrace funded two five-day Disney trips, during July and August, with families travelling from right across the UK to meet their Embrace support and volunteer staff at Ramsgate for the start of the fully-funded and chaperoned break.

The five-day break, hosted by PGL, is packed full of fun, adventure and group activities (for those who wish to) – including two full days at Disneyland Paris culminating in the awesome lights spectacular, a tour of Paris and picnic at the Eiffel tower, together with swimming, games and toasting marshmallows around the campfire on the final evening.

This year’s trips brought together children, and parents or guardians, impacted by crimes including murder, homicide, serious sexual abuse, domestic violence and neglect.

Led by Embrace Victim Care Officer and former West Yorkshire Police Detective Diane Watts, the breaks are meticulously planned to ensure every person can have fun and, where they wish to, the chance to bond with others who understand their experience.

“It is the most wonderful experience to see the children and families blossoming throughout the trip and to see the children laughing and happy and without a care. I know friendships, over five short days, have been made for life,” she said.

Volunteer chaperone Paul Durham, a retired Detective Superintendent and now a primary school teacher from Norfolk, said: “As a former Senior Investigating Officer, I have always thought about what happens to families who have been through these appalling ordeals, once police FLO contact has finally ceased. It was a truly humbling experience to witness – first-hand – the resilience of families re-building their lives and I was particularly struck by how actively different families supported one another on the trip.”

Freedom to be themselves

The Disneyland trips are an established feature of the Embrace support programme, allowing families to come together to heal.

Primarily nominated by police Family Liaison Officers or Investigating Officers, for most families, such a magical trip would be out of reach.

“The children are ‘less clingy’ – they have the confidence to roam/be out of sight. They understand that ‘bad things’ have happened to other people too and they are not the only ones”
– Family impacted by arson

Our trips are hosted by PGL, the UK’s leading outdoor adventure provider, ensuring safe and structured activities, tailored to the news of our groups.

With accommodation based at a grand chateaux east of Paris, the children and families have access to range of activities and are in close proximity for trips to Disney.

Feeling ‘normal’

The trips allow children to play together and, for the older children, to bond and enjoy shared experienced.

Two teenage girls from separate families, impacted by violence in different ways said:

“It has made us both feel more accepted in society and feel more like normal children. We both feel like our anxieties have gone down and we can reach out to other children in need. The Embrace team have shown me that there is a group of people who will listen and help.”

Feedback from families at the end of the breaks show that, in the vast majority of cases, they feel more empowered, happier, and that the trip has had a positive impact on the healing process for their families.

Each place costs in the region of £500 and spaces are ring-fenced for families who, judged by a combination of factors, will derive the most benefit and are among the most serious cases.

Anne Campbell, Chief Executive of Embrace, said: “Our Disney trips are unique. Nowhere else offers this therapeutic experience which we know – because the families tell us – make the world of difference, giving them something positive to look forward to and shared experiences for life.

“This year’s trips saw a number of unplanned events including migrants found in the coach engine, and a gas leak in the camp kitchen – our experts at PGL and the camaraderie of the groups meant that this just added to the experience!”.

To refer a child for support please visit https://embracecvoc.org.uk/refer-a-child/

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