A week before the Corona virus starting keeping us all apart, we brought almost a hundred women and girls together! Each year we have a big celebration of our work, the women and girls who attend all of our projects come along, we invite funders and other professionals that we work alongside from across the city. It’s always an emotional, inspirational and fun event, and this year was no different.
The event took place at the Leeds City Museum who were kind enough to host and feed us! There was a big display of bunting that the women from each of our groups had been working on in their sessions. We started off hearing from Rachel our Chief Exec with a bit of an overview of our year. She told everyone about the projects that were coming to an end, but also about exciting new pieces of work like Your Space, our partnership project with Touchstone and Holbeck Together. We than had a fantastic performance from incredible Leeds poet Khadijah Ibrahim who inspired and entertained us all.
Next Lucy introduced the video Breathing Space have made which shows women from the group giving tips to professionals on how to support people who have experienced trauma, which included being aware of triggers, not judging and thinking about eye contact. One of the things people always tell us they love about our celebrations is hearing Rainbow Hearts sing, this was next up and as usual, it was incredible. During the performance Sally read out messages from some of the women about what coming to Rainbow Hearts has meant to them.
Sarah followed this with an introduction to the animations that some girls and young women from The Key have worked on with Children & Families Services. The young women were asked what it was like growing up as a girl in Leeds and they talked about whatever was important to them. We watched the animations on healthy relationships, mental health and abuse.
Finally, and most importantly, we heard from women and girls from across our projects about their stories and what coming to their group has meant to them. There are always some tears around the room during this part of our celebration, but a lot of uplifting messages too, and it often means a lot to the women and girls to have their voices heard.
“Coming to these groups helped me come to terms with what had happened in my past wasn’t my fault. Being around women who were like me helped build my confidence and self-esteem.”
“My mental health has improved a lot…I feel a lot safer and a lot less lonely. I don’t make friends at my group, I make family and it just keeps growing.”
“Today I stand alone this strong because I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. I survived what I went through to live & protect my children, that along takes strength & courage like no other. I’m at the stage in my journey where I realise I will never fully recover from what I went through, because sustained trauma affects every aspect of a person’s life, whether it be living with the aftermath with Social Care, or battling through depression & suicidal thoughts. But I can and I will heal because of the determination I have in me to show my children it’s never ok to be alone and fighting silent battles.”
“Group has made my confidence grow and improved my mental health. I have overcome most of my fears and I can now see a change in myself, so thank you for helping me be a better persona & believe in myself when no-one else did.”
“I came into this project feeling desperate for somebody to speak to & listen to me, not just judge me for being a ‘stroppy teenager’. (Workers) made me the woman I am today and I am grateful for that, so thank you.”
At this point, we all needed a little break, so it was time for lunch and for the relaxing part of the day to begin! We had a couple of henna designers, a fantastic photo booth from Getaway Girls that was VERY popular and creative types could have a go at making memory boxes with The Key’s Moving on Group and paint a section of a community canvas with Amareen from Your Space. We were so very thankful to the staff and students from Leeds City College’s hair and beauty department, who offered hand massages, braiding and ‘hair up’ styling for anyone who fancied a bit of pampering. Finally, after having some gorgeous cake baked by our very own Bridget, it was time to head home.
The celebration is always a highlight of our year – looking around the room at such incredible women and girls, seeing them face their fears and tell their stories, then being able to just spend some time enjoying themselves together. Massive thanks to everyone who made the event happen, particularly Ranstad for the crèche, Leeds City Museum for the venue and Leeds City College for the pampering. Lastly, as always thanks to the girls and women from our projects who came along, opened up and showed what Women’s Health Matters is all about – women supporting women. Same time next year?