Tuesday, 3 May 2016

A Fresh Start...

Often, at A Way Out Charity, we have the opportunity and honour of hosting visits from our supporters and funders and as part of this have the opportunity to provide a brief tour of our Stockton riverside centre and its facilities.  

Without doubt, the one room that can be the most impactful for these visitors is at the very centre of the building.  This room is the bathroom, especially designed for the women that we support.  You may be wondering why this room leaves such a memorable impression?  After all it's just a normal bathroom... the same as bathrooms found in many homes, it is clean, warm and beautifully fitted with everything a woman needs for a relaxing bath or shower.  It could almost be described as luxurious. 

Just hold that thought....

Now imagine being in a situation where you may not have a stable and permanent place to live, perhaps 'sofa surfing' – sleeping on the sofa in a friend’s living room- or constantly moving from one hostel to the next, continually uprooting your entire life and belongings and moving on from room to room, week by week.  In addition, when money is really tight and purchasing even basics such as food becomes an issue, expenditure on personal toiletries really is a luxury.

For the clients with whom we work, the bathroom at A Way Out is available any time of day during our working hours... and it is used often.  A safe and secure haven of peace and relaxation in an environment that is centred upon compassion, love and care.  A place at the heart of the building, which allows a private time for reflection, a time for recovery, a time for decision making,  a time to think of positive new directions....

The lives of many women have been completely changed during their visits to our bathroom while they contemplate new dreams and resolutions in the course of a precious soak in a scented bath at A Way Out.  An everyday, simple and basic need is met – with a significant impact.  With the extensive support of our A Way Out case workers, these dreams and resolutions do become reality.

A Way Out can provide all that the women need when they visit our bathroom, clean towels, toiletries, soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion... thanks to continued kind donations from supporters.  Sometimes the toiletry supplies run a little low and this is where you can help – a donation of shower gel or other toiletry items would go a long way to helping us provide a comfortable environment which could change a life.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

How many doors do you walk through in one day?

A Way Out is a special place for all who come through the entrance and the door of A Way Out has opened to such a variety of supportive people since the beginning of the year – and we are only in the third month!  

We have welcomed new staff to our Senior Management Team; hosted representatives from large funding organisations providing a tour of the facilities and an overview of the projects; received fortnightly visits from our workplace Chaplains; presented a full training programme to newly recruited volunteers; received cheque presentations from the sale of a locally written book and from the participants of charity walk in Ropner Park; and provided a venue for the Probation Service to hold regular meetings – to name but a few who all support A Way Out to keep our doors open.

Most importantly, we have opened the doors of the A Way Out centre to our regular drop-in sessions, providing practical support and a pathway to recovery; and the doors of the A Way Out van on regular late night outreach sessions on the streets of Stockton. 

The work of A Way Out, reaches out, comes alongside and journeys, for as long as it takes, enabling those with whom we engage to resolve issues and get their lives back on track. 

Many of those whose life we touch have experienced many doors closing in their lives.  The door slam of a parent leaving; the door slam of a partner leaving; the door slam of a job ending; the door slam of homelessness and the echoing solitude of poverty and addiction; the door slammed by society.  The path to recovery commences by arriving at the threshold of A Way Out and mustering the courage to step through.  It’s not the doorway that is important – it’s what is beyond – its working with our service staff, in partnership with other supporting agencies, to open up a life full of positive possibilities. 

Each person who comes through the door of our centre enters with their own story, whether they arrive as a staff member, volunteer, funder, supporter, or seeking support – stepping through the door is what can make a difference to the future that lies beyond. What separates A Way Out’s open door way making it a special place is the experience of total acceptance, the welcome of loving support, unswerving kindness and a willingness to walk the long journey that we know lies beyond and is undoubtedly affective in convening hope for a life rebuilt.
Why not cross our threshold and make a difference to a future? Currently we are very short of non-perishable food for our food parcels –make a food donation and be part of our story and part of the future…

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Love is...

For the previous few weeks, right up until last weekend, the shops have been full of pink hearts and red roses, of fluffy teddy bears and poetic greetings cards, and declarations of love were everywhere. But as Valentine’s passes and we throw away the box that was once full of chocolates and recycle the bottle having drunk the champagne – or perhaps we are relieved that culture is no longer so absorbed in extravagant romantic gestures – I wonder whether our feelings of love fade away so quickly?

Of course not. Hopefully, the affections we hold for our friends, family or significant other are about so much more than offering them a gift on one day of the year. It’s wonderful to make a point of treating those we love and reminding them that we care, but it’s what we do on the other 364 days of the year that really counts.

Sadly, at A Way Out we come alongside many people who have not previously known this kind of loving commitment and care, who may have experienced exploitation, mistreatment, abuse, or neglect. They may have been let down, forgotten, or completely overlooked. And this is why LOVE is right at the heart of A Way Out and is absolutely central to all that we do.

We hope that this is evident through our work as an organisation, offering unswerving kindness, patience and perseverance, having an attitude of never giving up on people. We believe everyone deserves love, not just on Valentine’s Day, but on every single day of the year.

Would you join us in loving vulnerable women, young people and families? Right now you could engage  with our ongoing Lent campaign, #FreedomFridays, when many individuals and organisations are giving up a latte, or their regular pint on Fridays and donating what they would have spent to A Way Out, alternatively you donate Chocolate Eggs for our Easter appeal; or you could give financially to our work; or consider volunteering with us. Find out more about all these things on our website: www.awayout.co.uk or call our centre on 01642 655071.

Together, we can ensure vulnerable women, young people and families in Stockton on Tees can know that they are loved and valued.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

New Year

Three weeks into January, and the question we’re all wondering is whether we’re keeping up with all the resolutions we made (perhaps in haste while still feeling the after-effects of Christmas excesses). Statistics show that by now most of those good intentions have fallen by the wayside, which is understandable as life takes hold and routines take over, and dark January days make another slice of cake ever more appealing. Of course, some people will still be doing well. I have seen an incredibly inspirational woman out running every morning for the past few weeks, whatever the weather, showing a depth of commitment to her goals.
At A Way Out we are regularly amazed by the depth of commitment people show, and it was this incredible attitude that meant at Christmas we could give away nearly 100 festive food hampers, almost 100 different gifts, 35 cinema vouchers and an amazing selection of children’s presents to the vulnerable women, young people and families that we are walking with. All of this happened only because our generous supporters were committed to showing love and compassion, regardless of the busy and expensive requirements of Christmas.  A Way Out was able to accept these overwhelming donations and passed them on to those who needed them.
A church in Norton went above and beyond, making a special effort to invite a number of vulnerable women and some of our team to a special Christmas lunch, lovingly bought, prepared and served by members of the church. That in itself was a kind thing to do, but even more than that, the church gave special gifts to every woman who attended, and organised all the transport they needed. A Way Out staff and service users are so very grateful to this kind hearted group.
I wonder whether your new year’s resolution was to cut back on something, take something up, or just generally do things differently? Perhaps in the midst of this focus, there’s space where you too might be able to show kindness and a depth of compassion to the vulnerable. It doesn’t have to be January 1st, at any point of the year you can go to www.awayout.co.uk and choose to go that extra mile, supporting those who need it.

Monday, 14 December 2015

How quickly the Christmas season sneaks up on us each year.

This morning A Way Out had a visit from a wonderful team of volunteers who offered to spend an hour sorting through decorations. Suddenly the office was filled with tinsel and fairy lights, strains of Christmas music filled the air, and everything got a little bit more real.

The cold weather is also a sign of the approaching festivities, and it seems that everyone is digging into their winter wardrobes for woolly hats and big, thick winter coats – and for the children at one of the primary schools we are working with, this is possible for them as well.

When a local church approached us to ask how they could intentionally donate to our youth project, and we mentioned that a few of the young people might need coats for winter, the church stepped up to donate enough to be able to buy every single pupil from Reception to Year 6 a brand new coat. Our youth coordinator told us what an amazing sight it was to see each one of the school’s 80 children buttoned up against the cold as they ran around on their lunch break.

We are constantly humbled and deeply appreciate every donation that we receive, but at this time of year we are especially grateful when individuals and groups choose to give to those we are working with, as we know there are so many other claims on your time and money.  Yet we do ask, if you are able, please consider supporting A Way Out this Christmas.

Thank you so much for your support throughout 2015 – with your help we have managed to reach out and support so many vulnerable women, young people and families. In 2016 we will keep doing all we can to bring love, hope and freedom to those who need it, and hope that you will continue to stand with us as we do. Thank you.

Monday, 30 November 2015

I love autumn.

Each year I am surprised by just how strikingly beautiful the world gets during this season, as the leaves transform through vivid shades of orange and red and then gradually fall. It is such a dramatic change from the sunshine of August to the colour of October to the ‘bleak midwinter’ of December, and it always seems to happen so quickly.

But the good news of that (as well as the gorgeous orange leaves outside my window) is that Christmas is fast approaching. Over a cup of tea this morning, the team here at A Way Out realised it’s only nine weeks away – and by the time you read this it will be down to eight.

This fact will I’m sure be met with a mixed response. Perhaps you are ecstatically excited about the fast-approaching festivities, perhaps you’re slightly stressed about all that is soon to come, or perhaps you’re looking forward to time off work and an opportunity to enjoy yourself or see your family. Whatever it may be, at least in the midst of the darkest and coldest time of the year, most of us have this wonderfully warm and light-filled few weeks to look forward to.

But we realise at A Way Out that for many of those we work with, this isn’t the case. They may not have the chance to decorate a tree or hang a stocking, they may not have a family to visit or be able to see the people they want to, they may not have the opportunity to over-eat on chocolate and Christmas dinner, because for so many, they simply do not have the things that most of us take for granted. For many of the women, families and young people we come alongside, winter is both cold and dark, and there is nothing within that to look forward to.

We want to make a difference – we want to give them something to bring light and warmth. 

Could you support our appeal at Christmas? We are collecting gifts so nobody is left without one, and we are putting together Christmas food parcels, and we would love to receive your donations for this throughout November. Please join us in bringing love, hope and freedom at this time of year.

Saturday, 31 October 2015


One of the very few things I recall from school biology lessons is the seven things that prove something is alive. It helps that my teacher gave me a handy acronym to help me remember, so even now I’m a couple of decades older, I can still label the seven life processes that MRS NERG represents. The last of them is growth and I often wonder about that one. Of course our growth is physical, as our bodies’ cells develop throughout our lives, but surely as human beings we need to grow in many other ways too: in our experiences, our relationships, our understanding, and our awareness.

For many of the vulnerable individuals we come alongside at A Way Out, this kind of growth has been limited in their lives because of the challenging circumstances they have faced. Over the summer we offered some of the women we are journeying with the chance to experience what many of us take for granted, day trips to Durham, Whitby and Redcar. They did ordinary, enjoyable things – a walk on the beach, a boat trip, fish and chips for dinner, and an ice cream.

In Durham the group explored the cathedral and were able to light candles for loved ones, and then ate pizza together. Simple activities but, for some, new and exciting experiences. These modest activities encourage personal growth and develop and nurture relationships, and A Way Out believes in the value of this as part of our holistic approach – caring about all aspects of an individual’s life.

We would love for you to help us as we seek to encourage further growth in all those we work with, by supporting us you will be making a real difference in the lives of many vulnerable individuals, helping them to find a way out of life-limiting and life-controlling situations.  For further information regarding how you can do this go to our website. 

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