Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What do you think of when you hear talk of the word ‘halo’?

To some, it’s a futuristic military science fiction video game of interstellar war between humanity and an alliance of aliens, in which halos are large habitable structures designed to destroy all sentient life.  For those who enjoy gazing at the stars rather than the screen, the word may bring to mind circular bands of coloured light around a sun or moon, which, those with scientific minds will know, are caused by the refraction and reflection from ice particles suspended in the atmosphere; and for those whose thoughts centre upon other heavenly realms, a halo may provoke an image of a ring of light floating above the head of a sacred figure as depicted in religious paintings.
For the A WAY OUT Youth Project workers and a group of young people in a local area, the word ‘HALO’ is something to get excited about, something to feel good about and something that has been occupying their minds and their time each Wednesday night for a number of weeks.  HALO for this group of young people, youth workers and volunteers means Helping And Loving Others. 
Each week the group come together as a team and work hard in their local community to make it a better place to be, to make it glow in a new way by picking up discarded litter, tidying up gardens and even planting flowers and seeds.   And it’s not just the area that glows in a new way!  For the young people involved, a light has been switched on in their minds as they look for new ways to improve their environment, and in their hearts as they take pride in improving their surroundings; a light that is reflected in the faces of their families when they see their youngsters working hard and making a difference in a positive way.
HALO is just one of the weekly youth outreach projects that A WAY OUT coordinates, alongside youth club drop-in sessions, local visits and residential activity weekends for young people who may otherwise not have the opportunity to venture outside of their immediate local area.  None of these activities would be possible without the invaluable assistance of local volunteers, the generosity of charitable trusts and kindness of individual donations.


If you would like to be part of helping local young people shine by making a positive difference to their community and in turn, widen their horizons for the future, why not make a donation or become a regular giver; or for more information about volunteering with A WAY OUT, you too could become part of helping and loving others.
With love from A Way Out x

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A Big THANK YOU!




www.awayout.co.uk



Here are A Way Out we have people from all walks of life coming through the doors, and some of these are students on placement.  For the past 8 months we have hosted a placement from Sunderland University with a student studying Youth & Community Studies.  We are very sad to see her placement end with us, and we wanted to share with you her experience with you.



Tell us a bit about yourself Becky?
I am 27 years old, a mum of two children with another on the way. I qualified as a barber when I left school, and then following some of my own difficult life experiences I found I wanted to help others in similar situations, and I went back to college to help further my career development. I am now a mature student studying Community and Youth Work at Sunderland University. I originally wanted to get into Social Work, but I am so pleased that I chose this course instead. I feel it has taught me a lot more about society and myself.

When did you first hear about A Way Out?
Through the University. I was looking at options for my placement and did some research of my own on the internet. I found A Way Out and got in touch to see if it would be possible to do my placement here.

What drew you to working with us?
After speaking to the team over the phone and having our first meeting, I loved how the youth project was developing, and I knew that I would learn a lot from that, being involved with setting up new projects from the beginning.

What activities have you been involved in whilst at A Way Out?
I have been busy supporting the youth project with starting up Reload (the Thursday evening drop in), as well as attending the local primary school, supervising football and helping with additional support in reading. I’ve been helping to set up session plans for youth outreach and delivering youth sessions. We took about 13 young people on a residential which was a definite highlight for me. I’ve also been involved with developing the community hubs and helping to plan the activities for those sessions.

What are the key things that you’ll take away with you?
That love is important. That being made to feel like part of a team can really help someone's development. I’ve really learned that no matter how small you may feel something is, help or support can make a massive difference to someone else's life.

What would you say to any fellow students following in your footsteps?
Don't ever give up. Never judge someone by their appearance. Always ask for help and ask a lot of questions. I’ve learned the important skill of allowing others to show you where you have gone wrong or explain what went well in order for you to learn from that for next time, and that’s been really helpful.

What’s next for you?

At the moment I hope to finish my last year of University after having the baby in 7 weeks time! After that...I'm not really sure with regards to my career. I will have 3 small children and I want to be committed to them, so I’ll just see where life takes me and look forward to the next chapter. I will definitely still stay in touch with A Way Out continue to help and volunteer when I can.

Thank you, Becky for all you've done here at A Way Out!

Our life-changing work really couldn't continue without the help of our wonderful volunteers. Maybe you could spare a few hours a week and begin volunteering.  Your time will not only help change the lives of others, if you would like to volunteer with us here, then get in contact with Rachel, our wonderful Volunteer Coordinator. We have plenty of opportunities from just an hour a week, and are sure to find something that will suit you.

With love from A Way Out x

Thursday, 5 June 2014

It's Time To Make A Difference


It feels a bit like that doesn’t it? It’s June already and we have no idea where the time has gone. The other months seem to have merged into February, and before we’ve realised, we are packing for our summer holidays. It’s hard to believe how fast this year has flown by. The time just disappears.

If we’re not careful, we can let life pass us by, allowing the months to merge into one. And if we’re not extremely careful, we’ll soon find ourselves singing “deck the halls” or “walking in a winter wonderland” without realising it.

If we look back over the past few months, near enough the first half of the year, what have we done with the time? What have we achieved? What difference have we made?

At some point, we have to put a stake in the ground and say, “right, it’s time to do something!”

We agree. It’s time.

At A Way Out, we begin our days deciding that today is an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, and we decide to do something. Every day we see people come into our centre or our community hubs and they need someone to invest in them, to give them time. We are passionate about seeing chance in people’s lives, but that can only happen when people commit to doing something about it.

It’s time to do something about those struggling with food poverty.

It’s time to do something about the women being abused and exploited.

It’s time to do something about the people trapped in addiction and depression.

No doubt you would also like to be part of making a difference in the lives of others who may be less fortunate than yourself. Maybe you feel like it is time? Is today the day you have been waiting for to action your desire to support others.

We are aware that you might be limited in time, and we have many different opportunities available from being an advocate, to being a volunteer. Just complete our volunteer application form to get the process started and we will work with you to determine the best way that you can contribute, ensuring that it fits with your lifestyle and the work of our projects.

You can also make a difference by deciding to contribute financially to make our work possible.

You can do something. Don’t you agree? It's time! 

Our team are committed to spending time with people and allowing people space to be themselves, and the freedom to make choices. We are committed to giving people the hope and confidence that they need to make it through.

If you want to be a part of this incredible team and make a difference, or want to do something to support those who are giving their time to see this continue to be possibility, please contact Rachel Broughton on 01642 655071 or Rachel.broughton@awayout.co.uk. You can find out more information about how to get involved by exploring our website or giving us a call.
www.awayout.co.uk

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Teacups & tears; Some parting words from our founder Jessie Joe Jacobs

During my final day at A WAY OUT I started to think back over the years...

I started this charity nearly 12 years ago with a group of people, passionate and committed to seeing change in the lives of women and young people in Teesside. We had this crazy idea that poverty, addiction and abuse shouldn’t exist and we needed to do something about it. We named the charity A WAY OUT, because we believed there was a different way for Stockton’s most at risk.  We believed that there was a way out of addiction, poverty and abuse and we could help people find that way out. 

In the early days, this meant turning up in the red light areas of Stockton with cups of tea and hot dogs, speaking to young women who were selling their bodies and asking how we could help.  They said they wanted a drop in centre, a chance to go to rehab, somewhere safe to live and someone to listen. 
We couldn’t meet this initially, but we prayed and believed and visioned and gradually we became the solution to some of those needs.

12 years on we have a bespoke day centre; we have worked with over 6000 women and young people; supported 100’s into treatment, recovery and rehab; helped 100’s with housing needs;  given out 1000’s
of hot meals; and at a guess, we have given out over 100,000 cups of tea.  100’000 interactions with people at risk, 100,000 conversations that say “you are worthy”,” you are special”, “you are loved”.

As I was sorting through my things, my box of memories to take away with me; the inspirational message pinned to my pin board; photo’s; thank you letters from clients saying how much A WAY OUT has meant to them ; an invite to a VIP diner, or audiences with Ambassadors, Mayors and MP’s.   I noticed, from the corner of my eye, a box of polystyrene cups, just plain white cups and suddenly the tears fell.  I looked at those cups, and I think back 12 years, re-living my first experiences on those streets with a polystyrene cup in my hand, pouring tea and.. laughing.

When I thought back over 12 years of a ministry fighting to bring an end addiction, to end poverty and to end abuse, I heard laughter; I heard happy conversations; I saw smiling faces full of hope; I saw the fun experienced by children who’d previously known pain; I saw dance classes instructed by women who were putting  a life of of abuse behind them:  I saw donated clothes being given to a woman who’s body was ravaged by addiction; I saw jokes being told; I saw hot dogs being given and out and I saw... many, many cups of tea.  Tears rolled down my cheeks and I sobbed as I realised that somehow, by the grace of God, I was a part of it all.



A WAY OUT has a new leader now, Genna Wilkinson. She is wonderful.  The charity has an incredible future ahead and I know, beyond doubt, that the organisation will continue to bring love, hope and freedom for many years to come.  A future of, not 100,000 cups of tea, but millions.  I hope you will continue to follow A WAY OUT’s story and if you would like to stand with us, why not make a legacy donation via http://www.justgiving.com/awayout/Donate  .  Mark your donation “legacy gift” and A WAY OUT will ensure it goes towards making a future possible.


www.awayout.co.uk

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

"Wax On Wax Off"... Changing Lives Through Coach

Classic 'wax on wax off' scene from the original movie of The Karate Kid
 
I HAVE a poignant memory of being 10 or 11 and watching, for the first time, the now classic Karate Kid movie. It will be etched in my brain for two reasons; firstly the trouble my cousin got into afterwards for doing the Crane Kick off a bollard and into the neighbour's wing mirror, and secondly, for the part everyone remembers. That's right... 'Daniel San, wax on... wax off.'
 
If you haven't had the privilege of watching Mr Miyagi coaching his young student, it goes like this: skinny young guy gets a hard time at his new school. He attempts to teach himself Karate to defend himself. Enter the apartment block care-taker, Mr Miyagi, who takes Daniel under his wing and begins his unconventional approach to learning the basics of the martial art he wants to learn. There is a great deal of painting involved (which subconsciously teaches him about wrist strength and movement) and a host of other seemingly meaningless activities, leading up to the famous 'wax on, wax off scene.' Without Daniel knowing, the time spent with his coach, cleaning a forecourt of cars, was actually equipping him for the fight. He was better and he didn't even know it. What he did know, eventually, was that someone cared enough about him to invest his time and energy into him. Without a dad of his own, this was invaluable.
 
When I was watching this again recently it reaffirmed the importance of the work we do at A Way Out through our Coach programme. Today we are sharing just one story of how a life has been impacted through this amazing project.
 
Coach Coordinator Jeanna Spencer, said: "When Jamie was 13 he was referred to A Way Out’s COACH project. His home life was chaotic to say the least, and his attendance was slipping at school.
 
"Actually when he went to school his behaviour was fine, but family workers were concerned that this would deteriorate, especially as he had witnessed angry and violent behaviour at home. There really weren't many positive role models and with his home environment was being often difficult, those already involved wanted to get someone in to support Jamie and give him focused one-to-one time each week. The hope was to find for him a good role model, genuine support and help to prevent issues from increasing."
 
This is where A Way Out stepped in. The COACH team try to match young people with Volunteer Coaches who share similar interests with the young person, and who we think they will get on well with.

Jamie was matched with Paul. Now several months into their Coach partnership, they 'clicked' really well from the outset.
 
"Jamie has some goals he’s hoping to achieve – things he’s always wanted to do, like a Man vs. Food style challenge and visiting a local art gallery – that are related to where he hopes to go in life" Jeanna added.
 
"He would like to be a graphic designer in future, and his Coach is looking at ways to help him achieve that goal – encouraging him with his academic achievements at school, and looking at what courses he could pursue at College."
 
But it's not all serious business.

In some of their sessions, Jamie and Paul go and get some food and hang out playing table football or air hockey, and they have even been bowling. On one occassion they learned to make pizza together!

Things that have come up in conversation during the sessions also provide inspiration for future time together. Paul is currently finding ways to help Jamie get over his fear of heights.

For many young people in our nation, there is an absence of someone to show them the way. The picture, opposite, is a sweet reminder though, of how important it is to have someone there to help you through.

Jeanna said: " Not everyone is lucky enough to have both parents. And Jamie has never had a dad at home to coach him through the things any teenage boy would need help with.

"Paul has become a positive male role model for him. He told me, 'He’s like a dad'."

But Jamie isn't the only one to benefit from being a part of the A Way Out Coach programme.

"Paul also gains a lot from knowing that he’s helping Jamie to become more confident in new situations and becoming someone he can trust to talk about what’s going on in his life.

"And It’s stories like this that make our work feel worthwhile – to know that we’re making a difference to young peoples’ lives and helping them get where they want to be is amazing. It’s also an encouragement for those supporting young people who are just beginning that journey and have a long way to go to achieve their goals – this gives us hope to keep going and making the right matches, to be able to build positive relationships with young people who need it!"

This is just a small insight into some of the live changing work we do at A Way Out. Just like in the movie, we have scores of young people now more equipped and more ready for life, simply by being invested in and being cared for.

Of course, to continually run projects like this we not only rely on incredible volunteers but also much-needed finance.

If you think you have what it takes to become a Coach, or to help with any of our projects, sign up to support A Way Out through volunteering, by clicking here:

http://www.awayout.co.uk/get-involved/volunteer/

Or to support us financially from just £1 a week, please click here:

http://www.awayout.co.uk/get-involved/donate/

Thank you so much for taking the time to celebrate this amazing story with us. Please share on social networking sites and pass it around your friends and contacts. Together we can make a difference!

 

Friday, 31 January 2014

A Day in The Life... an interview with Niomi

AT A Way Out our focus has always been seeing the lives of the most at-risk people, caught in abuse, addiction, poverty and exploitation, dramatically turned around.

And when the focus always remains about the 'who' and not just the 'how', what you get is an incredible team of people on the front lines, but also an amazing, dedicated, go-the-extra-mile team behind the scenes.

One such person is the beautiful and incredibly talented Niomi. As the first person you meet when you walk through our doors, Niomi plays an important role as Administration Project Support, resident baker and official calorie counter!

Here is an interview with this treasure - who brightens up our day - and helps make A Way Out great. We asked her to tell us about 'a day in the life of A Way Out'.

Full name:
 
Niomi Jessica Rodrigues

Age:
 
22

How long have you been at A Way Out? 
 
Three-and-a-half-years, although I started as a volunteer and did that for 18 months to begin with.

Have you changed roles in that time?
 
I started volunteering in October 2010, initially as part of the Youth Outreach team. As my confidence and enjoyment of the role grew I was given the opportunity to help out in workshops which we did in schools, and  even take a lead on some groups. In April 2011 the position of Administration Project Support became available and I applied...  the rest is history.

Highlights? Working with an amazing team who have become like a second family and getting to know our service users. It's always amazing when you are the one they trust and come to when they need help.

Lowlights? From time to time we have lost significant people from our amazing team, due to various reasons, because we are all so close that has an impact. 

What does a typical day look like?
 
There is no typical day in the life of an Administration Project Support Assistant!
 
I get into the office at 9am, turn on my computer and get on with replying to emails, taking phone messages, and completing the admin tasks that are asked of me to do. I’m also 'on call' throughout the day for our hard-working support workers. So if they need me to do a pick-up, drop-off, run an errand, pop into town, make a cuppa, sit with a client or any other crazy request they ask of me, I am there!

Challenges of the job?
 
Finding a balance between getting admin work done and being able to support the other projects practically. I'm always busy.

What's rewarding about the job?
 
I love being able to see first-hand the lives of our service users being turned around with the help of our amazing team. It really happens and I get to be part of that.

We encourage all of the people who receive support from A way Out to learn to dream. What dreams do you have for the future?
 
I really want to develop within my role and hopefully apply for a Support Work position one day, if one was to become available.

Favourite food?
 
This is a toughie. I love trying new foods and there’s not really much I don’t like! Something low calorie is always a bonus!

Hobbies?
 
I have a love for baking and cooking. Trying out different recipes and using substitutes to make things as ‘healthy’ as possible. I also enjoy going to the gym and time with friends.

Do you have a bucket list?

I’ve never really thought of a bucket list, but I would love to travel a bit more. I've just returned from Australia but I would like to visit different European cities as well as tropical lands further afield. Who wouldn’t?!
 
Do you have a dream like Niomi to help people in need of support? Maybe you could spare a few hours a week and begin volunteering, just like she did. Your time will not only help change the lives of others, it will support the incredible team here and could pave the way for you too to become part of the A Way Out family.
 
Visit http://www.awayout.co.uk/get-involved/volunteer/   for more information.

 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Beauty for Ashes


WHEN we dream, at A Way Out, about what our next year will look like, it's often not about us at all. Let me explain...

In a discussion just last week about our thoughts for a new campaign to raise awareness and to encourage people to raise funds for us, we couldn't move away from a powerful passage from the Bible found in Isaiah 61.

Some extracts from it go like this:

for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that...  he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.


As a team reading these words, we couldn't help but imagine what life could be like for the people we exist to serve if they knew that an organisation like A Way Out is here, with people who do want to help, with news that could change their life, with a team who will comfort those who mourn and daily will proclaim that freedom, from addiction and exploitation and poverty, could be theirs!

And so our attention, right at the beginning of this year, is not simply on us but how we could live out the words, 'Beauty for Ashes,' and what that might mean for those who access our services.

I heard a moving story this week from our Family Interventions Worker that illustrates this so beautifully.

She said: "We've been helping a single mum with three kids. Her background is that she has been a victim of domestic abuse and suffered from years of physical violence as well as verbal abuse. She ended up in hospital more than once, until she found the courage to leave her partner."

This precious woman, as a result of the years of torment and stress now suffers from severe depression and anxiety, resulting in some days feeling so trapped by her circumstances that she is physically unable to even get out of bed or leave the house.

And then there's her children to consider.

Having witnessed the horror of domestic abuse they now have to navigate their own significant personal challenges, all of which have meant the family have been constantly wading through the mire of difficult times and emotional issues.

Not being able to get up, and losing the ability to cope due to stress meant that her home and garden have understandably, at times suffered too. The garden, in particular, had become so unusable it in itself was now a point of stress, so overgrown and unkempt it acted as a constant reminder of the downward spiral they had found themselves in.

Families worker, Lizzie Purdham, said: "What's fantastic is that we were able to help, even in her garden. Working with the larger team at A Way Out we were able to find a team of seven volunteers from Barclaycard who kindly gave up their time to completely transform her garden.

"She was completely overwhelmed, and it was lovely hearing how she was going to plant some grass seeds in the spring and talking about how she is looking forward to playing with her grandchildren in the garden in the summer."

Some of you many be wondering, why, when there are so many more 'pressing' needs out there, and even within this family, did we chose to 'do a garden.' Did she NEED her garden clearing? Maybe not. But what it did for this family could not have been fixed without it.

You see, the simplest of things, in this case, understanding the value of a garden makeover has contributed to motivating this beautiful lady to want to get her life back on track.

Lizzie added: "Leaving her with this amazing cleared-out garden has done much more than lighten her workload, she now has a visual representation that things can be improved and even transformed."

Simply, Beauty for Ashes.


There's a powerful praise song, also based around the words of Isaiah 61, where the lyrics go, 'Let the ruins come to life, in the glory of Your name...' then goes on to talk about 'rising up from the ashes'.
A Way Out exists because we believe that every single person deserves a life that is happy, whole, free from abuse and despair, and that every single individual has the right to walk in freedom knowing and believing in a better future.


For those of you who partner with us, whether through prayer, volunteering or through much-needed and appreciated financial giving, this is what you do... you bestow on people Beauty for Ashes, you give permission for what is seemingly ruined, to come back to life, you help us help others, to rise from rock-bottom, and you help proclaim freedom to captives.

Once again, thank you for standing with us. Please help us by sharing this blog on Facebook and Twitter. The right message in the right hands could be invaluable as we strive forward this year.

There's an old proverb that says, 'truth is always true, for me and for you.' Just in ending, those words above apply to you too. Beauty for Ashes...










 




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