Friday, 28 September 2018

Down to earth compassion...

One of my roles is to visit local community groups to provide updates of recent developments.  I speak of outreach, intervention and prevention undertaken by A Way Out’s dedicated staff as they support vulnerable women, families and young people in the Tees Valley area.  Maintaining confidentiality, I tell of joyful and heart wrenching case histories and without exception I am stunned by the sincere consideration and concern shown by those listening.

This region is often a victim of ‘poverty porn’ presented by national press and TV depicting deprivation and poor health – the truth is that our area is truly rich in kindheartedness, benevolence, concern and down to earth compassion – and we see this every week at A Way Out.

The lady who prays daily for our clients and staff; the retired couple who home bake each weekend in preparation for our drop-in for vulnerable women; the dedicated volunteers who collect donated food and pack 50 food parcels a week for distribution to those in need; the schools, churches and community groups holding fundraising events – none of these people ever meet our clients face to face, yet our clients know that through these actions they are loved – and that means so very much.  We talk of actions speaking louder than words and in this case it is completely true.

For women and young girls who have experienced intense and prolonged hardship, hurt or abuse the knowledge of a community who care enough to give up time to be kind and caring makes a huge impact.

This month we held a special drop-in session providing an opportunity for our clients to express thanks for the support received, they wrote “for all your love I thank you.”  “Thanks so much for showing us love and support – may God grant you and your families love always”.

Be part of the good news …

You can contact A Way Out via, 01642 655071 or email

Written by Anita, General Manager

Friday, 31 August 2018

Wrong Direction...Wrong Destination

Recently I collected a friend from the airport.  The first time I had driven this 2 hour journey alone.  Assisted by navigation equipment, all ran smoothly until I arrived in the vast expanse of the airport.  In the confusion of multiple road signs, heavy traffic and unfamiliar surroundings, I attempted to drive to Terminal 2, but found myself heading directly to Terminal 1 – trapped in a busy flow of unyielding traffic, no opportunity to stop or change course – heading in the wrong direction to the wrong destination. 

The automated voice that had guided me to this point was demanding  perform a U-Turn where possible’, my friend, now in arrivals, was ringing my mobile … my stress levels were rising and still I could not change direction.   Thankfully the situation was easily remedied.  I pushed a button at the exit of Terminal 1 and explained my situation to a friendly voice who directed me back on route.

Moving into adulthood alone can feel like navigating through unfamiliar surroundings - with many things and people influencing direction and raising stress levels, it can be all too easy to steer off course.

A Way Out’s Blossom project is a guiding voice that can pull up alongside vulnerable young women to provide a supportive navigation system to put lives back on track.  Many local agencies and organisations make referrals each month to direct the path of struggling young women towards our Blossom project.  By offering support and guidance A Way Out’s Blossom team empower young women to stop in their tracks, make changes in direction and head of on a new, exciting and positive route.

Written by Anita Burke, General Manager

Thursday, 9 August 2018

All will be well...

It’s now 6 years since I stood in a hospital pre-op room waiting for an operation that would save my life.  Shedding my warm familiar clothing, I folded myself into the impersonal hospital gown, knowing that I would not be the one to remove it. 

I climbed onto the plastic coated mattress of the hospital trolley, hidden behind drawn curtains that obscured the clinical visuals but heighted the clinical soundscape.  Alone I waited, with my thoughts louder than my surroundings.  Should I let in the fear?  Just for the count of 10?  I open my mind and my heart feels exposed.  1…2…3…4…5… it's too much to bear, I close the door on my fear and focus on what I know to be true.  I know I am loved, I know I am safe and in good hands and ultimately, I know that all will be well – and it was.

Today I work with an amazing team of colleagues at A Way Out charity.  The organisation supports vulnerable women, young people and families many of whom have faced their own fears.

We hear of the experience of young women who also find themselves in unfamiliar rooms wearing clothing they know someone else will remove. Who climb upon a plastic coated mattress – but this one is lying on a dirty floor.  Curtains are drawn.  With thoughts, louder than their surroundings and warped by alcohol they feel exposed and afraid.  Trying to focus upon what they know to be true – no one loves me, I’m not safe … but maybe these hands upon by body right now belong to someone who will love and care for me, maybe all will be well?… but it isn’t…

The role of A Way Out is to reach out, intervene, prevent further harm and provide support to empower and enable safe and secure lives…  we do this through our Liberty and Blossom services working together to encourage a future where all will be well.  

You too can support these services with donations of food, toiletries, financial support or by donating your time by volunteering.  For further information please contact 01642 655071 or via our website

Written by Anita Burke, General Manager

Saturday, 7 July 2018

'Fake News'

'Fake News' is a phrase that many of us have become familiar with - news with no basis in fact, created for dramatic effect - the direct opposite of truth.

'Fake News' is so much a part of our current lives that it could cause us to question all incoming information - looking for assurity - searching for information and evidence to endorse it as TRUTH.

TRUTH is valued at A Way Out - information received on a daily basis, based on truth, shapes every aspect of the organisation.

The biblical verse, John 8:32, states that 'the truth will set you free' and the hope of lived lived in freedom from addiction, poverty, homelessness and exploitation is the very driving force of A Way Out.  Our tag line Love, Hope, Freedom encompasses the very nature of our ethos which is based upon Christian values.

In our daily contact with clients, fake news is not something that we come across.  The hard truths of poverty, homelessness, exploitation and addictions are very real.  The realities that we see every day shape our services and assist in developing interventions and prevention for vulnerable women and young people in our area.  Learning from these facts also influence A Way Out's service development in our work with young people and families to guide and steer all towards brighter futures.

It is important, also, to recognise the truth that A Way Out cannot do this alone.  The organisation's dedicated and skilled staff are supported by a committed and faithful team of trained and highly valued volunteers.  Supporters can help to provide additional provisions such as food parcels, toiletries and other essential items that are part of the truth behind the needs of lives experiencing hardship.  Our regular monthly givers are immensely valued and vital to our daily support to clients.

There are always opportunities to support A Way Out, visit our website for more information.

Friday, 8 June 2018


2 years ago A Way Out celebrated the outcome of a successful grant application.  This specific funding supports our Blossom Service created from feedback and ideas shared by clients of our established and successful Liberty Service. Whilst grateful for the intensive and highly effective support we provide, these women shared a wish to have met A Way Out much earlier in their lives – BEFORE circumstances led to exploitation, destructive addictions and a chaotic existence…
Our Blossom service, born from these wishes, supports and advocates for today’s vulnerable and at risk younger women in our local area.   Blossom provides intervention and prevention support in their young lives NOW.

Our Blossom staff are a hard working team, dedicated to enabling and empowering young women to make real and lasting changes for a positive future.  We work alongside young women ensuring that they are not facing challenges alone, we share in their progress – celebrate with them in their victories and encourage them through disappointments.  Blossom is supported by trained volunteers who generously share their time to help facilitate our drop-in activities and outreach sessions.

Today we are celebrating another answer to prayer – a need uncovered by our intensive work with this younger group of women.  Young, lonely, isolated and vulnerable women with disabilities can be at particular risk of exploitation, however, thanks to the generous support of a local foundation we are now be able to offer these particular young women skilled, specialist one to one support as part of our Blossom service. 

We are currently recruiting to this specialist post  – take a look at our website for further details and where you will also find information about other ways you can support the work of A Way Out.

Friday, 11 May 2018


When a pet dog is chastised, the response can clearly show comprehension of something bad happening.  Without actually understanding the words used, the owner’s tone of voice and body language alone can convey frustration and perhaps even anger.   The dog may tremble and cower in response.  Unnecessary repeated scolding results in the pet becoming nervous, withdrawn, jumpy and anxious – trust is lost.

Imagine then, a child experiencing a figure that threatens, a figure that says “whatever happens must remain their little secret”; a child who, unlike the pet, does understand every hurtful word; a child who responds as – nervous, withdrawn, jumpy and anxious.  Trust is lost … and when this happens repeatedly the world becomes a lonely, fearful place.

At A Way Out distrust can be one of the first barriers to overcome.  We meet women whose childhood experience has shaped the rest of their lives and have sometimes led to entrenched harmful and risk-taking behaviours - trust placed in the numbing effect of alcohol or substance abuse.

The patient, non-judgmental approach of A Way Out enables our staff to gradually build up genuine, supportive relationships with clients.  We are there when things go right and still there when things go wrong, offering a consistent, caring, compassionate, professional support.  Clients trust us and have faith in all that A Way Out stands for.

Recently one grateful client commented, “Fear knocked at the door and faith answered”.

If you would like to know more about the work of this charity, would like to volunteer or offer financial support please go to or telephone 01642 655071

Saturday, 14 April 2018


One definition of the word courage describes “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain WITHOUT fear” – but surely isn’t real courage the ability to experience such danger or pain WITH fear, and still face it head on?

A Way Out is a courageous organisation – a charity that has stood the test of time for the past 16 years.

A Way Out has courageous workers who support clients when they are in danger and in pain; engaging, empowering  and equipping vulnerable women, families and young people to live lives free from harm, abuse and exploitation and to reduce life limiting choices and behaviour.

Fear is part of everyday life for A Way Out and for many third sector organisations – fear for future financial survival in an economy where funding opportunities are reduced and competition for remaining funding pots is high; fear of not being able to meet the needs of our clients when demands increase and capacity is stretched; fear for the very existence of our clients as they struggle with so many life limiting issues… yet A Way Out and our clients face that fear and with courage and continue to succeed.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that “courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen” - this is A Way Out – intervention, prevention and  listening  - mustering courage and, through trust and relationship, instilling the same courage in those we seek to help.
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