Our Staff & Trustee Away Day 2017

Once a year the whole team and our lovely trustees meet up for an away day.  It’s one of the few times we get to spend time hearing about how all of our different projects are going, to discuss our plans for the future of WHM and generally be inspired by each other. We also eat cake!

 

 

One of our warm-up tasks was to create a ‘stained-glass window’ of something that reminded us of WHM. As you can see from the photos, not everyone understood the instructions and some of us are definitely more creative than others!!

We always end the day feeling really positive and like we’re all an important part of the organisation. Also, feeling full of cake! =)

Saying Goodbye to Footsteps

We’ve posted a few times about our work with the Footsteps project so you may be familiar with it.  The project offered group work and some individual support for women whose children were no longer in their care.  Their children may have been adopted, now live with family members or be in foster care placements.  We initially saw a need for the project because we were working with women, mostly through our domestic violence groups, who were left with very little or no support from professionals once their children were removed from their care.

 

For many women, this was the most difficult time of their lives and they felt alone, they told us they felt judged by friends, family, workers and even strangers. They were grieving but not able to speak to anyone, they were more at risk of returning to abusive relationships or or returning mental health issues.  We developed Footsteps so women weren’t alone in this.  They were able to sit in a room with others and know no-one was judging them.  We all recognised that every single one of them, wherever they were in their journey with Social Care, were still – and always would be – mums.  We talked about their children a lot and supported each other to cope with Christmases, Mother’s Day, children’s birthdays, contact sessions, final contact sessions, going through court and writing and receiving letterbox contact from their children’s adoptive families.

 

We delivered sessions on the impact of domestic abuse on children, on parenting, managing our mood and stress levels, on self-esteem and how to keep ourselves safe.  The group members were able to start understanding the processes more and why specific decisions had been made.  They identified how they could avoid ever being in this situation again.

 

We reminded each other that we were still important and our feelings were valid.  The most important part of the project was how the women in the group supported each other.  As workers, we could talk about how final contact might feel and support the women through it but that wasn’t quite as helpful as some words or a hug from another mum who had been through that process.  We had lots of tears but also many, many laughs.

 

Sadly, due to the funding ending, Footsteps closed in September.  We’re really hoping that we are able to find more funding in future for this hugely important piece of work. Myself (Sarah) and Leeanne were amazed every single week by how strong, supportive and awe-inspiring the Footsteps group members were and we really wanted to share with you a project we did a few months ago.  We were really lucky to receive some funding support from the amazing Open Nest charity.  We were able to have some sessional support from Georgia,  a great Art Therapist, and also take part in a photography poetry project.  The group members all had their photographs taken  by Lizzie (which they said was a bit awkward at first but then they LOVED it!) and also sat with Peter to chat about important items or people in their lives.

Peter sat with us as a group and asked us how being in Footsteps felt, he came up with the following poem –

Footsteps

Is

 A stormy start, but sun breaking out,

mist clearing to rainbows.

A bed of roses, prickly, but each colour

soft and different.

Ups and downs, many crossroads.

Rollercoaster road.

A safe and steady ship on choppy seas.

Life-saver. Life boat.

Peter and Lizzie went away, worked some magic and put the poems and images together.  When we sat as a group and looked at them, we were all really emotional. They were beautiful and the feelings and voices of each woman came through.  It was a fabulous thing to be a part of and one of the women said “I loved the poem and photos, it made me feel heard and like I felt pretty for once =) “.

We hope you like them as much as we did!

 

We have an exciting new project – Breathing Space!

We are really happy here at WHM to be launching a new project this autumn, offering a safe space to women who have experienced domestic violence and abuse. “Breathing Space” has been funded by the Department for Culture,Media and Sport through their “Tampon Tax” fund for three years. Groups will begin in November 2017.

At first we will work with women in small closed groups for 6 weeks so that we can build a sense of safety and develop some techniques that help deal with stress and cope with difficult feelings.  We know that many of the women we have worked with over the past 10 years have felt really anxious about meeting new people.  We don’t want anyone to worry about having to tell their story or explore complicated feelings in public, so these closed groups will just concentrate on helping everyone feel better on a day to day basis.

When women have been in these groups they may feel like joining an open group to explore ways to keep safe and explain some of the things they have experienced.  We will offer a rolling programme of sessions which help answer the questions women often ask us like “How could this happen to ME?”, “ Why don’t I feel like myself anymore?” and “ How will I ever trust anyone again?”. We will work with women to help them feel better in themselves and have more choice and control in their relationships .

Although being in a group can feel uncomfortable at first, we have seen over and over again how much better women feel after supporting each other to get to grips with some of these issues. The ideas that shaped “Breathing Space” came from women we have worked with in the past so thank you to everyone who has contributed in our groups and shared their thoughts and feelings with us! We will make sure that the ideas and insights that women bring to “Breathing Space” are also used to help make things better for others in similar situations in the future.

Please get in touch with us if you’d like to know more about this project or any of the other ways we support women and girls who have experienced domestic violence and abuse.

 

Spotlight on Our Projects – SEEN

The SEEN (Seen, Enabled, Empowered & Noticed) project supports women with disabilities through group work.  There are two groups that are part of the project – The Hope Group and Feel Good, both are delivered by Sally.

The Hope Group is a monthly group for disabled women.  The group offers peer support to its members, giving them space for a catch up, to chat about things that are going on for them and they offer each other advice and support about issues that affect them as women with disabilities. As with all WHM groups, we recognize that group members are the experts in their own lives and have lots of experience and knowledge to share with each other.  We also recognize that having a disability can be very isolating for some people, so it’s really important that we have a relaxed space where we can chat about how we’re feeling.

Unfortunately, many services and organisations are inaccessible for people with disabilities in various different ways. The Hope Group is active in raising awareness to challenge these services to help make statutory and non-statutory services more accessible for disabled women in Leeds and beyond. The group is open to new members so if you are interested in joining us or want to find out more, contact Sally on at sally@womenshealthmatters.org.uk or on 0113 2762851.

 

The Feel Good project is a 6-week course for women with learning disabilities that takes place in the community. In the group we talk about what good relationships look like, the different types of relationships we have in our lives, how to keep our bodies healthy and how to keep ourselves safe.  We have lots of fun and laughs but learn a lot too.  This project is in partnership with People In Action so if you would like more information, please contact Amanda at amanda.douglas@peopleinaction.org.uk or on 0113 2443729.

You can also find out a little more about the SEEN Project here.