The Farrell Family

Chris and Julie Farrell, were apprehensive as to how their children Harry and Aaliyah would react to the outdoors adventures at the SSAFA Short Breaks holiday. They were amazed and surprised.

The Farrell Family

Chris and Julie Farrell, were apprehensive as to how their children Harry and Aaliyah would react to the outdoors adventures at the SSAFA Short Breaks holiday. They were amazed and surprised.

Chris and Julie Farrell hadn’t done anything like this with their children 7-year-old Harry and 4-year-old Aaliyah before. On day one, that soon changed.

The Farrell family based at RAF Honington attended SSAFA’s Short Breaks in October so they could enjoy family time together doing something different. The activity holiday in Exmoor, Devon for military families with a child with additional needs seemed like the right fit, as Harry has a condition called 16p11.2 microdeletion chromosome and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Young Aaliyah, takes on a carer role for her older brother, signing for him, so it was important for the Farrells that everyone got a break.

The family have had a connection with SSAFA for several years and that is how they heard about the programme. Mum, Julie is in the RAF Personnel Support and has volunteered for the charity ever since they helped Harry get into a special school. Dad, Chris, also has military ties. He is ex-RAF and now works for the MoD as a civilian. Though initially nervous, both parents were ecstatic to see the kids having so much fun.

“These two have surprised me.” Chris said. “It’s a digital society, and I thought they would be apprehensive to do the activities. But they got on with it. They have done every activity.”

The whole family took part in activities such as horse riding, kayaking, bush craft and archery.

“I think seeing Harry out and about is amazing. It means we can do these things in future. We can do more activities and meet new people. He’s just a happy little boy. Even when he is scared it means he can do more things.

“It’s different from the norm. It has been an adventure. We are tired but it has been fun! We met new people. We’ve added them on Facebook, and we may meet up in future. It isn’t just this week, its friendships for the future.”

Meeting people with similar lived experience was important to Julie too:

“It’s great to be with the other parents. We are all in the same situation. Everyone here understands what you are going through. Every meltdown is accepted. It is non-judgemental. We face a lot of judgement in real life. Families can always have an opinion on how you live your life.

“When we take them out, we need to determine what mood Harry is in, how he will be. Here we don’t have to worry about that.

“The staff are also great. They have made us feel so welcome.

“Thanks to the people who have backed this project. We have had a break, done some amazing things and met other families and we can support each other.”