The Oakes is a Christian holiday centre for 8 – 18 year olds to hear the Gospel message, to be encouraged in their faith and to enjoy a holiday. There is no church contact with 86% of children and young people in Britain, who know little about Christianity, think it is irrelevant in their lives and grow up bombarded by non-Christian teaching and values.
The focus of most of the holidays is to present a clear, exciting and relevant explanation of the Gospel message. Some camps are geared towards the encouragement of young Christians and aim to develop and strengthen their faith. The holidays are action packed, offering a variety of activities such as sports, arts and crafts, music, drama, raft building and boating.
A team of permanent staff live on site to organise and run the holiday programmes. They are led by Dan and Billie Thaw, PE teachers with many years’ experience of Christian work with children and young people. Children can book individually, bring a friend or come as a group with their leaders to either the junior (ages 8-11) or senior (ages 11-15) camps.
The Oakes is a superb setting for a holiday. The large Georgian house with 14 bedrooms, stands in 8 acres of historic gardens which include a lake, a walled garden, woods and extensive lawns. There is accommodation for up to 52 children and young people plus staff. Surrounded by 90 acres of parkland, the house feels rural yet it lies within the Sheffield boundary.
The Oakes is owned by The Oakes Trust (Sheffield), a non-denominational Christian charity. When the house was bought it was in serious disrepair and a large amount of work had to be done on the building. In the last two years, it has gone from building chaos to having had 1300 children and young people pass through. Children have come from a wide geographical area and from very different backgrounds.
Support of the Oakes can take many forms.
All help, skilled or unskilled, is gratefully received. They are always in need of help in the kitchen, house, grounds and office as well as on the Gap Team (live in) and Support Team. Young people aged 15+ can become part of the Support Team, when they come and help for occasional weeks or weekends. This enables them to grow in faith, to gain experience working alongside children and young people and to serve God in a practical way.
Probably 80% of the items in The Oakes (ranging from teaspoons to a ride-on lawn mower) have been donated through their "wedding list”. The Oakes have a list of things from books, tapes and craft materials to furniture (house and garden) that they would be grateful to receive, either new or second-hand.
On 1 July 2000, The Oakes opened on schedule. Every bill had been paid on time and the Opening Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication acknowledged God’s faithful provision in every detail, large and small.
Financial support will always be vital because camp fees are kept to a minimum to enable maximum participation. Fees provide for camp bills (ie food and utilities) but do not cover the total cost of managing the centre or developing new facilities.
Funds are needed to ensure that excellent facilities are established and maintained. Interest free loans for the initial purchase and renovation work also need to be repaid. Money is needed to provide a free or subsidised place for someone who cannot otherwise afford it:
£35 for a weekend £55 for a mini-week £99 for a weekend
Initially, no team members received a salary. However, in 2001, The Oakes decided that the long term roles of director, catering manager, housekeeper, estate manager, administrator and assistant cook should start to receive some financial assistance. The Trust is aiming to raise an additional £20,000 each year to this end.
One-off gifts are a real encouragement to the Oakes, but they are praying that more people will become involved in their Acorn Scheme, which ensures a monthly income, which helps them to budget sensibly. The Acorn Scheme involves a commitment of just £99 per year, which works out as £8-25 per month or under £2-00 per week.
Prayer support is vital to the work of the Oakes. The team thanks God for the amazing provision and timing over the last four years.
Please prayer for:
- The new work planned for the house and the grounds. Clearing the lake, securing the ropes course and renovating the two mobile homes for overspill team accommodation.
- More Project Partners who will commit to join and support the work of the Oakes in a variety of ways.
- More Acorns.
- Applications to Trusts. To continue to target funding for new projects.
- A positive response to our appeal for contributions to our Holiday Fund (for assisted places)
- Wisdom to know how to use people’s gifts of time and money.
- Team members, ranging from long-term live-in help to day visitors who have joined us according to our needs. God has been in control and His timing has been perfect.
- All the campers who have visited so far: that they will continue to be challenged by what they will have heard, find encouragement at home and a church to attend.
- Camps over the coming months, that the team will be creative and introduce new ideas, including different ways of presenting the Gospel to keep the holidays fresh.
- The Oakes to be a loving and caring environment where children/young people feel accepted, have a great holiday and grow in their relationship with God.
For more information, requests to become a Project Partner and to be on the mailing list, please contact: The Director, The Oakes, Oakes Park, Norton, SHEFFIELD. S8 8BA. Tel: 235 9995