Just in time to celebrate our work!

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 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?

                                     

Summertime and the living is….busy!

Although it already feels like summer was a million years ago, as usual it was a busy time here at WHM.  As some of our groups close over the summer holidays, we use it as a time to go on trips if we can, or catch up with women and girls for one to one appointments (and sometimes even to go on holiday ourselves!).  Here are some of the highlights of our summer.

Hannah, or Rainbow Hearts Wellbeing Case Worker supports women on a one to one basis. She fills us in on some of the things she’s been up to over summer –

“As the Wellbeing Case Worker working with women who are seeking asylum I have recently been focusing on the link between mental health and physical health. I have supported women in getting Leeds Cards so they can access reduced cost gym and swimming sessions. This has helped women to build up their support networks and get to know their local area better, as well as improving their physical health. Women seeking asylum often struggle to access gyms or exercise classes due to the cost, the Leeds Card offers women the opportunity to be able to go to the gym or go swimming at a reduced cost which makes it more accessible for all women to attend. The women who have been have enjoyed the sessions and are keen to keep going!”

Picnics featured A LOT in our summer trips, with Rainbow Hearts, Breathing Space and our Leeds Domestic Violence Service groups.

Tayba fills us in on the Breathing Space trips –

“The women and children enjoyed a picnic in Temple Newsam and a walk around the farm where they got to see a pig giving birth. This was all topped off by some cooling ice-cream and lollies. Many of us were also running away from the swarm of wasps! A great day out though.

On another trip, the women also went to Roundhay Park and had a picnic, again enjoying the greenery with the beautiful sunshine. Walking in nature is one of the things we talk about when we look at self-care in our groups.

The final trip for the Summer break was to Meanwood Farm. Again, connecting with nature and animals is very therapeutic and a fun day out with the kids.

Finally, the women expressed their appreciation and gratitude for having the opportunity to have day trips with the children during the summer break, which can be very testing for 6 weeks. Days out don’t have to cost much, kids get to run about, you get to take a break from boring chores perhaps- a great way to keep some boredom at bay!”

 

Rainbow Hearts also enjoyed a gorgeous day in Roundhay Park in the summer and took one of our favourite photos ever –

 

Lastly, our girls and young women’s project The Key went on an awesome trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park. Some of the day was a bit rainy, but that didn’t stop us having a great day. They were filming the TV show ‘Big Week at the Zoo’ while we were there so we were able to have a bit of a nosey at that too. We had such a fantastic time, with one little boy saying his favourite animals were ‘the monkeybears’!  You can tell Sarah was on photo taking duty as, by the end of the day, we had only taken photos of otters!

Thanks to all the team, the women & girls who came along, and also the children who joined us too for making it a summer to remember.

 

 

Spotlight on our team – Hannah and Naffie

This ‘Spotlight On’ we hear from Hannah W and Naffie, our newest Trustee.

 

Hannah – Wellbeing Case Worker for Rainbow Hearts

What does your role involve?

I work alongside the Rainbow Hearts group providing 1-1 support to asylum seeking women. I support women with their mental health and reducing loneliness and isolation.

What’s your favourite thing about WHM?

The people – everyone is friendly and supportive. I am enjoying being part of WHM, I have been welcomed into the team and feel like I have been here ages now! It is inspiring to be around so many passionate, committed women.

What are 3 things you enjoy doing?

Running, camping and Lego

If you had a magic wand, what would you do with it?

I would magic away all weapons, ammunition, bombs and bullets and make people talk out their problems rather than fighting. I would also magic myself a beautiful campsite on a beach in Scotland and I would spend my days baking cakes and running up and down hills surrounded by cats.

 

 

Naffie –

Why did you become a Trustee for Womens Health Matters?

A work colleague who is also a Trustee at Womens Health Matters approached me. My colleague stated that they needed a Treasurer on the board. At that point I had never heard of Womens Health Matters.  I then read about the organisation and the positive difference it makes to the lives of women.  This sparked my interest and made me want to be part of the charity.

What is your favourite thing about Womens Health Matters?

My favourite thing about WHM is how the WHM annual event gives women we support an opportunity and courage to voice out their experiences and how the organisation has positively impacted their lives to enable them to realise that they are not alone and they have more control over their lives and health.

What do you do outside of Womens Health Matters?

I work for Leeds City council Childrens and Families. My role entails working closely with the Commissioning Team and Local elected members for Children and Young people.

I have a BSc degree in International Accounting, certified in SAP financials, at the Professional Level of ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) certification and also completed more than eight years of public and private accounting experience where attention to detail is essential when managing client flies and proof reading financial statements. I am able to contribute these skills to WHM as a Treasurer.

Outside of all of the above and WHM, I enjoy going to the gym and Arabic classes.

If you had a magic wand what would you do with it?

I will make sure that every woman has justice, respect, care and compassion.

Smiling faces at Rainbow Hearts

The women at our Rainbow Hearts group were delighted to welcome back Kiran from Touchstone last week. We learned some chair-based exercises that we can also do in the comfort of our own home and lots of laughs were had when we played games to get the blood pumping. Thanks Kiran!