Greetings from Westbrook. This year I have been challenged by the number of children and young people who cannot afford to attend residentials at Westbrook because their parents or carers lack the financial means to send them.
Parents and carers regularly report that they cannot afford to send their children on discipleship weekends.
Westbrook has always tried to make what it does as accessible as possible by pricing competitively. Our prices are around half of what is charged by commercial centres on the Island, and yet parents and carers regularly report that they cannot afford to send their children on discipleship weekends away because of the cost.
It seems that this kind of expenditure is regularly at the bottom of the pile when compared to weekly activities such as sports clubs or music lessons, and the annual school educational trip - the average cost of these being £250-£300. If a large Christian summer camp is added to the mix as well, the problem is exacerbated.
Of course, many parents cannot afford such activities or trips in the first place, let alone a weekend at Westbrook on top. I was speaking to a mother a few weeks ago who regularly has to decide between fruit for her children for the week or walking several miles to work. These stories are increasingly common.
Our Isle of Wight parents report that they can afford something like £30 for a discipleship weekend when all is totalled. Westbrook’s charges to Urban Saints and Crusaders-affiliated young people are £66 for a weekend and if activities are added then this can rise to £70 or £75.
Friends, the Westbrook team work very hard to keep prices down so that Westbrook is accessible to as many as possible.
However, the increasing ministry of Urban Saints and local churches in deprived areas means that the levels of poverty we are seeing are increasingly high and increasingly frequent.
I was speaking to a mother a few weeks ago who regularly has to decide between fruit for her children for the week or walking several miles to work.
There are many causes of the poverty that we see at Westbrook but fatherlessness is probably the biggest contributor. When a marriage or partnership breaks down, any free money available to families is often swallowed by the rent or mortgage, food and bills of the non-habiting parent – and it is the children who often feel the pinch. With time on their hands, that pinch is medicated with endless hours of technology, be it violent computer/console games or vacuous videos, rather than with good role models, wholesome activities and genuine friendships.
I don’t suppose, dear friend and supporter, that I need to tell you the value of a residential at Westbrook,
I rather think you already know. I doubt you would be reading this if you didn’t.
Could I urge you this Christmas to consider supporting us financially to help these young people?
From this point forward, any regular giving (i.e. standing orders or direct debits) from the Friends of Westbrook or the Diamond Club will pour into a fund which will be explicitly and exclusively used for the purpose of sending children without financial means on Christian residentials at Westbrook. We will call this fund the Westbrook Bursary Fund.
We believe that this is a key part of what God is calling us to do – to follow the example of our Lord Jesus to “the least of these”.
It is also my hope that two or three Friends of Westbrook might consider volunteering to help me administer the applications to this Fund, either electronically or by correspondence.
Thank you for your continued interest in Westbrook.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10: 14b NIV
Westbrook Centre Manager