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?

                                     

Spotlight on our team with a difference… hello and goodbye to Sarah!

This ‘Spotlight on our Team’ piece will be a little different.  It’s my turn and sadly also time to say some goodbyes.  I’ve been at WHM for almost 5 years and during that time I’ve worked on lots of different projects such as Footsteps, our original group for women whose children are in someone else’s care, Include – our project for young women who may be pregnant or who are parents, our young mum’s group YUMs and some of our domestic violence groups.  I have three roles at the minute – as Operations Manager,  Project Worker on The Key and as Line Manager for our Your Space Wellbeing Worker. Sadly, as two of these pieces of work are ending, I’ll be leaving WHM in April.

I’ve absolutely loved working at Women’s Health Matters, I did a student placement here over 10 years ago and then always kept an eye out for jobs they had going.  I’m a passionate feminist and have worked with young people for almost 20 years, so The Key – a project supporting girls and young women at risk of abusive relationships – has been my dream role.  If you’d have asked me to design the perfect project for me to work on, it would have been this, not many people are able to say they’ve had their dream job so I’m really very lucky.  In my Operations role, I’ve been responsible for things like our social media and website – which has worked really well as I’m a bit of a geek too.

I’ve worked with some incredible women and girls during my time here and I’ve been inspired over and over again by so many of them.  I can’t describe how proud I am of the work I’ve been involved with and that I know my lovely colleagues at WHM will continue to do.  It’s not a huge organisation, but it has the biggest heart.

Now, it’s finally my turn at the spotlight questions…

What does your role involve?

In The Key, I do group work and one to one support for 13-25 year old girls and young women around topics like healthy relationships, abuse, staying safe, managing difficult emotions like stress and anxiety, grooming and the impact of abuse on children.

As Operations Manager, I do all kinds of things including our online and technical ‘stuff’, so things like our social media accounts, the website and newsletter, plus managing our database.  I go to meetings and forums on behalf of WHM and lead on things like our data protection/ GDPR policies and procedures.

As Your Space line manager, I supervise lovely Amareen, making sure she is fully supported and work with the Your Space Project Manager at Touchstone.

So a big, busy mix!

What’s your favourite thing about WHM?

100% the women and girls we work with. There has been so much laughter (and a good amount of tears) during my time here.  I’ve loved encouraging them to think about who they are, how to understand and try to love their bodies, and realise how awesome they are. It’s been an honour to be a part of some of their stories.

What are 3 things you enjoy doing?

I really enjoy getting out and about in nature, particularly where there is cake and coffee involved, it really helps me breathe and clear my head.

I love being around ALL the floofs (animals for those that don’t know!), seriously, all of them. Not spiders though.

I love learning too, when I started at WHM I was also starting a Masters in Gender Studies, I finished a couple of years ago and this has been the longest I’ve gone without signing up to some form of education.  I think I’m mostly just nosey about stuff!

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

Other than the obvious curing disease, poverty and hunger type stuff? I’d not only wish that all girls and women around the world were safe, but that they were thriving – living lives full of laughter and happiness, with very full self esteem buckets! Then I’d also wish that nobody every mistreated animals ever again, maybe that we worshipped them as magical creatures.  Too far, maybe?!

Huge thanks to my team here at WHM (including those wonderful women who previously worked here), to the women and girls I’ve worked with, and to the other professionals and partner organisations I’ve worked alongside over the last 5 years. Much love. x

Sad Farewell To Nicola

This week we say a very sad goodbye to our lovely Nic.  She’s worked for WHM for many years across lots of projects, most recently on The Key, YUMS, Include and on the LDVS Domestic Violence Group. Nic is always the calm voice of reason and is a huge source of knowledge for the rest of the team. She’ll be greatly missed by all of us and by the women she works, she’s had a massive impact on so many lives.

 

Nicola is moving on to continue her fantastic work with women over with our friends at Basis Yorkshire where she’ll be supporting women who experienced Child Sexual Exploitation as a child or young person.  We love Basis and, as lucky as they are to have Nic, we know she’ll love working within another service that puts the experiences of women at the centre of everything they do.  We wish her the best of luck!

 

We asked Nicola for some words as a ‘farewell blog post’ and love what she came up with!

 

SAD GOODBYES…BIG THANK YOUS!!!

W…Wonder women through and through
O…Ordinary
M…Mixed with extraordinary
E…Exceptional and unique
N…New challenges ahead
S…Special…extra special to me

H…Hugs…lots of hugs, happiness and laughter
E…Endings…not a chance
A…After 11 years with huge mixed emotions it’s time to move on
L…Lucky to have known each and every one of you
T…Team…new and former colleagues…what more can I say
H…Hungry…not a chance…good cake…right on cue

M
…memories…lots and lots of memories
A…AGM…all the rush…then the hush…the inspirational voices
T…Taught…by the very best
T…Tears…there’s been a few
E…Ears…thank you for lending them in my times of need
R…Relax…you deserve it…please do
S…Sad Goodbyes…but only until I see you again.