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. 


Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A day in the office

As I write this, it’s coming up to lunchtime on a Monday. I want to tell you about my morning.

I came into A Way Out first thing and was greeted by the smell of paint. On closer inspection I discovered that one of our incredible volunteers had spent his weekend bringing a new lease of life to a previously underused room in our building.

This person then came back early today, and along with another amazing individual, had packed up 40 food parcels ready to give out at our afternoon drop-in.

Throughout the morning, as I tapped away at my computer and scoured the internet for recent statistics on poverty, I heard the comings and goings of our staff and those who we support. At one point I was aware of a staff member giving practical advice to someone about accessing their much-needed benefits, and at another point I could hear weeping.

I don’t know why she was crying, but I was glad to know that A Way Out staff were there to offer comfort and support to this broken-hearted woman.

In the office next to my desk, other staff discussed funding bids we need to develop so we can continue with our projects and arranged meetings so we can work better with others to reach and engage more vulnerable women, families and young people.

Throughout the morning there were conversations to finalise the plan for a trip to London later this week, with young people who have not yet had the opportunity to leave this area, let alone visit the capital, and as lunchtime neared the smell of food wafted towards me as the women’s team prepared a hot meal for those who will come to our drop-in this afternoon.

As I reflect on this morning – on the food parcels carefully prepared and desperately needed, on the tears of that woman, on the plans being made, on the devastating statistics I discovered (22.3% of children in Stockton are living in poverty to name just one) – I realise again how much A Way Out is needed.

We are here to offer love, compassion and practical support to vulnerable women, and give hope and possibility to young people and families, and we will strive to do this as much as we can, for as long as we are able.

Please help us if you can. Consider volunteering for us, become a regular giver, or help us raise funds and awareness by organising an event. 




Wednesday, 26 August 2015

SkyDiving for A Way Out

A Way Out is always so grateful for our incredible supporters – you all do such amazing things, some of which are even a bit mad! Like Karla, who in a couple of weeks’ time, will be leaping from a plane to raise money for A Way Out.
Our Communications Facilitator Amy caught up with Karla to ask her a few questions about what she’s doing and why…
A: Hi Karla, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
K: Absolutely! I live in Roseworth with my partner and my cat, and I’m saving up to get married abroad in a few years.  I wanted to make a change this year, to make better life choices with work and food and to start helping others – I just became a vegetarian and I love it!

A: How did you find out about A Way Out?
K: One of my good friends worked for A Way Out a while ago, so I knew about the charity, but then I saw it was being promoted by Stockton Town Football Club as the charity they wanted to support this year.

A: What made you want to fundraise for A Way Out?
K: I’d heard a lot about you and the things you do to help people in need. The team sounds amazing. I’ve wanted to support the charity for so long but up until now there’s always been something in the way.

A: Why a sky dive?!
K: I'm a thrill seeker and have always wanted to skydive. My partner Carl said he would pay for me to skydive for my 25th birthday, but I wanted to do it to raise money as well and I knew that A Way Out was the one I wanted to do it for.

A: How do you feel about it?
K: I can't wait! It's going to be so exciting – but scary at the same time.

A: Tell us a bit about the event Stockton Town Football Club are planning for A Way Out.
K: There’s a fundraising night on Saturday 19th September from 7.30pm at the clubhouse. There’s a great singer booked and there’ll be a raffle and loads of fun – tickets are just £3!

A: What would your advice be to someone who wants to help A Way Out, or any local charity?
K: If anyone was thinking about helping this fantastic charity I would say, 'why wait?!' I waited long enough to do something and wish I had done it sooner. It's so easy to help, just email, phone or pop down to A Way Out and ask what you can do to help. They always welcome things for food parcels and people to raise money for the charity. Like me :)

A: Thanks so much Karla! We are so grateful for what you’re doing and hope your skydive is a fantastic experience.

You can sponsor Karla for her courageous sky dive here

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Together: Everyone Achieves More

Some catchphrases stick with you.
For me, there is something the leader of my gap year team would say repeatedly, so much so that the whole team learned to parrot the phrase - even if one of us just mentioned the very first word, everyone else would jump in to complete the saying.
It stayed with me and even now, fourteen years later, I can still remember how he would constantly remind us that we were a team, and in a team--
Together: Everyone Achieves More  
We've seen this at A Way Out, both within our internal team of staff and volunteers, but also through the strong partnerships we have with other organisations and individuals - and in this we discover the wonderful synergy of teamwork, when the combined effort is greater than the sum of collective parts.
Recently, A Way Out was recognised in the Lloyds Bank Foundation Charity Achievement Awards, which acknowledge life-changing work being done by charities nationwide and had almost 1000 applicants. A Way Out achieved Highly Commended in the North East for 'Enterprising Collaboration'. We are proud to be distinguished in this way, as a charity that values collaboration and seeks to do this creatively and intentionally.
Within these collaborative structures, there are wonderful moments of connection as we seek to make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable individuals.
Part of our youth project is a schools-based mentoring programme, and within this we are able to offer feedback to the school from our expertise and experience. We are so pleased that the school welcomes our feedback and recently one teacher shared with our youthworker how encouraged they were by one young person's progress - so much so that they were acting on our feedback to change their teaching approach, in order to better engage the young person in the classroom.
The teacher's openness and desire to collaborate was deeply beneficial to the young person, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to work in partnership with such committed and caring professionals, learning from one another as we go.
Again and again, we see the truth in that phrase, that as a team--
Together: Everyone Achieves More.
Our great team couldn't function without the hard work and dedication of many wonderful volunteers. If you have a few hours free each month or week and share our heart to reach vulnerable women and young people, get in touch with us on 01642 655071 or send us an email.
With your help and support, perhaps we'll be able to achieve even more.

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