Families at RAF High Wycombe enjoyed a range of special activities on 18 November to celebrate the opening of new Airplay Parks - state-of-the-art play areas for children and young people living on or around the station.
The new facilities were opened by Commander in Chief, Air Command, Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant, and Paul Hewson, Regional Director for the RAF Benevolent Fund.
The Airplay Parks are part of the RAF Benevolent Fund’s £24million Airplay programme for children and young people, which is also funding trained Airplay youth support workers to help RAF staff at the station.
Air Chief Marshal Bryant said:
“The RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay project is making a real difference to what we can offer children living at RAF High Wycombe and indeed stations across the country. Airplay Parks, childcare centres and organised activities all help provide support and peace of mind for busy RAF parents, whether they are working at their home base or deployed on operations. Our thanks go out to the Benevolent Fund for this significant and much appreciated investment in the RAF’s young people.”
Paul Hewson said:
“RAF children face a number of unique challenges. They move around the country as operations demand, often to stations in isolated, rural locations, where children must make new friends and start at new schools. In addition, parents may deploy overseas at short notice, often to war zones. It is not always easy, and can put strain on the family unit.
“That’s why the RAF Benevolent Fund developed the Airplay programme. By giving young people access to the facilities and activities they deserve, we can take some of the pressure off RAF parents – at home and on the front line.”
Squadron Leader Sam Martin, currently serving at the station said:
“These new play parks are brilliant – they give the whole family a proper place to enjoy. Being a serving parent at the station, you really appreciate knowing that the kids have a safe and stimulating environment to play in.”
RAF personnel organise activities for young people on stations, but due to increased operational commitments, staff have less capacity to contribute to this vital work. Airplay youth support workers (delivered in partnership with national charity 4Children) help fill the gap, giving RAF Community Support teams the additional trained staffing support they need.
Some 80 Airplay youth support workers are now in position at RAF stations across the country, with some 2,000 children and young people accessing the services they provide over the last year. Over 40 new Airplay Parks have been constructed, with many more to come over the coming year. Finally, over £13million has already been spent constructing Airplay Childcare Centres at 27 RAF stations, providing 1,800 places for children aged 0-5 last year.
Danielle Bowman, Community Development Officer at RAF High Wycombe, said:
“The new Airplay Park is a fantastic addition to our facilities, providing a much-needed safe, stimulating environment to encourage children and young people to enjoy outdoor play.
“Play is such an important activity, allowing children to develop intellectually, creatively, physically, socially and emotionally, so to be given this amazing facility for the children is a tremendous morale boost for everyone. I’m sure it will be well used, the families have been watching it being built through the fence and they are very excited about the opening.”
Charles Ellis, Deputy Chief Executive of 4Children, said:
“It is great that so many RAF families were able to join in and celebrate Airplay at RAF High Wycombe. It is clear to me that the RAFBF’s Airplay programme is vital to the RAF family and we’re delighted that Airplay youth support workers are working so well with RAF Community Development staff across the country. I look forward to seeing our working partnership grow and prosper in the coming months.”