Group of kids in forest walking over log

The Jewish Children’s Holiday Fund has closed the doors on its summer camp (File picture)

Organisers of a summer holiday camp for underprivileged children have been left “devastated” after it was forced to close its doors this week, writes Francine Wolfisz

The Jewish Children’s Holiday Fund, which was established more than 100 years ago, provided holidays for eight to 11-year-olds from socially disadvantaged backgrounds or with disabilities.

A poor take-up for this year’s programme meant the camp, held at Skeet Hill House in Orpington, Kent at an annual cost of £50,000, was not economically viable and has been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

JCHF supervisor Andrew Essex, 50, who has been involved with the organisation since 1983, said a lack of awareness about the charity was to blame for the low numbers signing up.

He said: “The committee would love to run the camp, but it has to be viable.”

In its heyday, the orthodox-run camp, which formerly operated from a property in Seaford, provided places for more than 120 children and involved them in a wide-range of activities, such as swimming, tennis, arts and craft, discos, outings, barbeques and guest speakers.

“It was a unique experience,” added Mr Essex. “We didn’t allow mobile phones or iPads because we didn’t need them. The kids had a whale of a time and for two weeks got plenty of love, care and attention.”

The JCHF will continue to provide grants for schemes and camps run by other organisations.

Skeet Chairman Barry Welck said: “Skeet Hill House is very disappointed to hear that JCHF will not be running their annual camp in 2016.  
“Skeet remains almost fully booked throughout the year and over 2,500 Jewish children visit every year with virtually every Jewish school and Community organisation uses its facilities. 
“Skeet hopes to work with JCHF to improve their take up of places for 2017 and are already looking at ways to ensure that disadvantaged children within the Jewish community don’t miss out.
“It would be a real shame if some young Jewish underprivileged or disabled children were no longer able to have an annual holiday.”