Tuesday, 19 May 2015

An invisible moment...

During a recent visit to Paris I used the underground Metro travelling from one landmark to the next alongside the population of the city in their everyday life.  The train had standing room only.  As it accelerated into the depths of the city, I noticed passengers moving apart as if to allow an invisible person to pass by.  Slowly the invisible person came into view - on the floor of the carriage was a man moving through the dust and grime pulling himself along using his hands, he had no legs, around his neck hung a piece of card explaining he had children to support. 

He looked up searching to connect with the eyes of each passenger as he dragged himself through the dirt of the carriage walkway.  His hands sought a safe route between the feet and baggage.  Each passenger moved their feet, and their gaze to avoid him, acknowledging his physical presence, whilst at the same time not wanting to look him in the eye or offer help.

I absorbed the shock of this unexpected encounter and felt my heart break.   This was his existence, shuffling along the floor, between the feet, begging for money.  Tears welled in my eyes, unable to muster courage to break away from the status quo, I let him pass by, denying his plea.

Later I was once again rushing through the labyrinth of the underground Metro.  Hot and thirsty, with aching feet, my stomach was telling me it was time to search for a cafe.  Floating through the multicultural voices, I picked up a distant sound.  Musical notes drifted through the air.  A man was playing a saxophone, the sound was beautiful and completely filled the walkway.  I forgot about being hot, I forgot about my aches and hunger, my spirits lifted.  As I passed by I threw a couple of Euros into the tin beside the musician, looking into his eyes I silently thanked him for lifting my mood.

Boarding the train the image of the man dragging himself along the floor came to mind – once more my heart broke - why had it been so easy to give money to the musician and so hard to even look into the face of the man on the floor of the carriage.

It is uncomfortable to re-tell this experience.  I am charitable and compassionate and I regret my decision to be influenced by those around me, I regret letting the moment pass.

A Way Out could be your opportunity, your moment, to help vulnerable women and young people in Stockton.  Could you support us by volunteering your time, donating food for our food parcels, or supporting us financially?   Don't let this moment pass you by.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Food for thought...

I love “people watching” and thinking about what lies behind the different ways we behave and interact.  Despite the variations and similarities in our humanness, we are all amazingly unique individuals.

Some of us are thinkers and strategic planners, weighing up the benefits against the disadvantages, planning ahead and aiming for victorious outcomes.  Others enjoy being on the front line, deep in the trenches of the battlefield of life, experiencing the mud and grime alongside the adrenalin rush of going head on into battle.  

Yet still there are those whose compassion lies in ministering to the wounded and battle weary, like the Stretcher Bearers of the First World War; weapon-less and marked only by a Red Cross on their sleeve, they would venture directly into the battle field to retrieve the wounded, coming to the rescue, just at the right time. Some of those stretcher-bearers had alternative beliefs about war and, although not able to fight themselves, were still willing to care for those who were equipped to do battle.

Here at A Way Out we benefit from a whole range of amazingly unique individuals.  Gifted strategists amongst our Trustees and Management, dedicated and courageous front line project staff and compassionate volunteers and supporters.  

Whenever we need to make a request for help, be it Christmas gifts or chocolate eggs,  bedding or furniture, or even toiletries and sanitary towels, the staff of A Way Out are constantly astounded by the army of compassionate supporters who come to the aid of those in need - those families and individuals who are battle weary, who feel, for a while, like they are surviving in the trenches of their existence.  

And yet the battle rages on... Each week we hold a ‘drop-in’ and, amongst other services we provide, we aim to offer a food parcel for each person who attends.  Every week we constantly push forward to acquire enough food to fill each bag, here’s where we need to ‘rally the troops’! If you feel that it's time to be 'called up' to help, A Way Out Needs You!  We are short of non perishable foods in tins and packets… and every little helps.  For more information check this page: www.awayout.co.uk/2015/03/food-parcel-appeal/

Wednesday, 25 March 2015


Some words can be both confusing and inspiring.  The meaning of one simple, single word has the ability to transform depending upon the context in which it is perceived… take the word ‘stuff’ for example.

We all have ‘stuff’  -  general, unspecified, essential and nonessential  possessions that we class as our very own.  Stuff can have personal value, or be worthless, but it’s still our stuff. 

We can have a trolley stuffed full of shopping and consume a delicious meal and feel stuffed.  Then there’s the priceless stuff that can’t actually be physically held in our hands, but more in our heads – the person who really knows their stuff,  or the stuff that dreams are made of …and yet at the other end of the scale, when you really, really don’t care… you “don’t give a stuff!”

At A Way Out, ‘stuff,’ in its many guises matters a lot to us.   

When worldly possession are 4 black plastic bags that need to remain safe while time is taken away from society to get yourself sorted – we’ll keep the stuff safe.

Each week we aim to stuff to the brim a food parcel for each vulnerable woman who visits our regular drop in.  Can you help with this? Follow this link for more information.

When a head is so packed full of stuff that life feels unbearable, our therapeutic counsellors help to unpack and make things manageable.

Our project workers and trained volunteers not only know their stuff in terms of professional knowledge, but are also an essential part of helping to make dreams come true – turning situations around, making real changes to lives… part of the journey for as long as it takes to make the stuff of  dreams a reality.

For all of this to happen we have to “give a stuff!!” 

Daily we give thanks for the dedication of our staff, volunteers and supporters – without you the work of A Way Out would not be possible… (we would be stuffed!) 

Isn’t it great to be part of something really good?  … and just a little can go a long, long way.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

I believe in volunteering

I really do.

It’s the most beautiful expression of compassion; when you do something for someone else without expectation of personal gain.

With that said, those who volunteer with this heart and motivation gain far more than they give.

For some it’s that feel good feeling, and for others it fills their spare time so that they can feel valuable. Still for others, it provides a work experience opportunity that they would never have had otherwise, and in its most simple form, volunteering helps people to realise the value of what they actually have and what is truly important in their own lives.

In my job role as Volunteer Coordinator, I match our volunteers with appropriate tasks and ensure that they are trained and ready to serve the most vulnerable within the community. This often means a few weeks of evening training classes, and even some accredited training so that they are prepared for what they will be doing.

Our incredible volunteers support us in many areas, with some giving their time to pack food parcels, and others distributing them to our most vulnerable women who often cannot afford to feed themselves or their families. Some of our volunteers join our women’s team on ‘outreach’ encountering women who are trapped in sexual exploitation, and others work with vulnerable young people out in the local estates showing them that there is another way. We have volunteers who cover our Reception whilst staff have team meetings, or go out and about on family visits, and others come in to support with admin tasks which are hugely valuable to our busy staff team.

For a long time, people all over the country have asked “What they can do?”.  If they don’t live nearby, it’s difficult for them to do something truly beneficial and worthwhile for the organisation.
If that is you, I would like to introduce a solution!... “Stand2Change”.

Stand2Change gives you the opportunity to do something that makes a difference directly where it matters most.  By participating in a thrillseeker challenge, or a home event, you and your friends could raise essential  funds to see A Way Out continue to reach out the most vulnerable and at risk in Stockton-on-Tees.

A Way Out firmly believes that people deserve our time, not just for a few sessions, but for as long as it takes. We are all on a journey, and our service users are no different. They work with us for anywhere up to 10 years, knowing that when they need support that they can get it.

You can be a part of their journey, and raise funds to support those individuals who really need our help.

Signing up for Stand2Change enables us to help you run your own event or plan your challenge. You could do a fun run, a bungee jump, a sponsored walk or a craft fair. Whatever it is, we can help you be the one that makes a difference.

If you want more information about volunteering or about Stand2Change, you can contact me at rachel@awayout.co.uk

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The end of Christmas

At the end of a hectic, exhausting Christmas day, the prospect of a good night’s sleep is something we all look forward to.  There is no better feeling than gently retiring to fresh clean sheets, with mind and body content, tired limbs slowly relaxing; muscles, tendons and a busy mind gradually dispersing the tensions of the day.  Silence descends…thoughts drift through a sleepy landscape, then abruptly, without warning, in your mind’s eye, you fall off a kerb, or out of a boat, arms and legs startled into an involuntary reaction to the sensation of falling…your body is jerked into ‘wide awake’.  Ever happened to you?  This involuntary phenomena has various names and explanations…Some scientists even believe it is caused by the brain checking that the body is still alive!

One of the most memorable things this year, causing the body of A Way Out to jerk awake, has been the terrific and totally voluntary public response to our Christmas Appeal.  The generosity and kindness of the people of Teesside and beyond has been overwhelming with donations from schools, churches, businesses and individuals all contributing in ways that have made a huge impact, sending a message of love to many who would have otherwise felt forgotten.

It has been such a humbling experience to receive gifts and donations from people who have made a real sacrifice on behalf of our clients and service users and this has really woken us up to the fact that there are so many people who really do care and who really want to make a real and substantial difference to the lives of others.

The staff and clients of A Way Out are so grateful to everyone who has contributed to our work during the last year.  Looking forward to 2015 your help ensures that we will be there for vulnerable women, families and young people when their lives ‘fall off a kerb’ or ‘out of a boat’ – we will be there as a life line – ensuring they have a future and feel alive.

By volunteering or supporting us financially you can be part of our wake up call to action for 2015.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Changing Seasons

As the seasons change and the temperature drops and the hours of sunlight reduce, nature seems designed in a way to best maximise survival. From plants, to insects, to animals, the different species have their own way of seeing through the winter months.  Bees cling tightly together on honey combs inside their beehive; bears, bats, snails and squirrels, even snakes, skunks and wood frogs, all hibernate… and trees shed their leaves.

I’ve heard tell that the leaves of deciduous trees die and fall in order for some trees to become more resilient to the onslaught of winter winds and snow.  Reduced to a structural minimum of mere trunk and branches, the trees can better withstand the battle to remain upright and survive harsh winds and driving rain. 

As we look ahead, we know that there are many individuals and families in Stockton who also try to become resilient to the winter months and the demands that the season brings.  Whilst some of us look forward to the forthcoming celebrations and festivities, others would rather lock themselves away until the sap starts to rise in the spring… families tighten up their household budget, shedding expenditure where they can, in order to buy their child a Christmas gift.

Here at A Way Out we strive, like the designs of nature, to help people to adapt to seasonal changes and hardships without having to lock themselves away, or strip away parts of their existence in order to survive.

By accessing funding, A Way Out have provided cosy blankets and hot water bottles for families who are unable to afford the increased in winter household heating bills.  We are making plans with the support of a local small business, to provide a Christmas meal at our women’s drop in and by working together with kind and loving people in the area, we hope to be able to provide Christmas gifts for the young people we work with and for the women and families we serve. 

Would you plant yourself beside us this season?  

Together we can create warm winter memories for our service users.  As you prepare for the coming season please include A Way Out in your plans – by putting a little extra in your shopping basket and making the most of the 3for2 offers you could make the difference to someone’s life this Christmas.

Alternatively you could donate by logging on to Just Giving and by donating or you could text AWOX14 £3, £5 or £10 to 70070.

Here’s a link to some ideas: Hamper or Gifts.

If you would like to find out more, please get in touch.

Thank you

Love from A Way Out x


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
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