Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Beauty from broken pieces

A Way Out celebrated Easter in style with our own ‘installation art event’.  We showcased the talent of our beneficiaries who designed and created colourful mosaics, transforming broken tiles into stunning and meaningful pieces of art.

For some of our women the artworks are a poignant image of how, when life falls to pieces, fragments can be rescued and brought together to form something new, beautiful and long lasting.  Just like the women with whom we work, each piece of art is entirely unique, each with its own individual story.   

Once piece demonstrates a heart held between two hands - the women attending our drop-in explained their aim to express how A Way Out provides them with support, holding their hearts securely. 

Another depicts a boat floating on the sea – a young women involved in our Blossom Project explained her life, like the sea, can turn stormy.  However, the boat symbolises A Way Out protecting it’s passenger from the elements.  Other times the sea is calm, with the boat providing a vessel to further the journey and enjoy the ride.  

A Way Out is all of these things – unique; safe; supportive; a haven in the storm; a place to transport vulnerable women to a future where they can enjoy life’s journey. 

The mosaics will remain on the walls of our Centre as a permanent reminder that beauty can be created from brokenness.

Thanks to the generous response of local individuals, groups and businesses our Easter Campaign has been a huge success. We gifted all of our beneficiaries and their children with chocolate eggs.   We all have the opportunity and ability to contribute a piece towards positively transforming a broken life.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Life is full of good …and not so good times.

Good times keep us rolling, helping to move up a gear and head off in a new, exciting direction.  Bad times can appear without warning, stop us in our tracks, a sudden unexpected reason to slam on the brakes, an Emergency Stop.

At A Way Out we travel alongside our service users as they journey from vulnerability and uncertainty to a destination of security and hopefulness.  This road is by no means a direct and certain path.  Past experiences of abuse and exploitation can produce temporary diversions and U-turns; entrenched behaviours resulting from addictions can cause road blocks, or even bring an untimely end to the journey completely - such a heart breaking endpoint has a profound effect upon everyone involved.
One of the core values of A Way Out is ‘love’.  Love permeates the very essence of our work.  To quote a bible verse “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

This also describes the amazing staff and volunteers of A Way Out who bear, believe, hope and endure with true resilience and compassion and walk the path of outreach, engagement, intervention and prevention with vulnerable women and young people in Stockton.
We bear, we believe, we hope and we endure and we aim to transfer these qualities to our clients.

The encouragement we receive from supporters fuels us to carry on and can inspire our beneficiaries to take that step forward into recovery.  There are many ways that you can become part of this journey - volunteer, fundraise or even simply donate a chocolate egg to help us gift all of our service users at Easter. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

We can all make a difference

Recently I took annual leave in USA.  I met with old friends and made some new.  I also caught up with a very special lady in Tallahassee.  Anna and I ‘met’ by chance over the internet while we were both receiving chemotherapy.   For both of us it was our second encounter with cancer and we supported each other via the web throughout our treatment and recovery, continuing contact while Anna then recovered from a heart attack.

This meeting in Tallahassee was emotional.   Hearing about Anna’s life was even more moving - a single mum bringing up her son, with an amazing dedication and compassion for all young people and her local community despite a 10 year battle with her own health. 

Listening to Anna’s story is proof to me that we all have the ability to make a real difference despite what life throws at us. 

In my role as General Manager at A Way Out I see daily the very real value of our volunteer support to our prevention work with vulnerable women and young people in Stockton.

Without the help of volunteers A Way Out could not provide our outreach and engagement services which prevent further harm, exploitation and life limiting choices and behaviours to some of Stockton’s most vulnerable.

We asked young people who engaged with A Way Out’s Youth Service how it has changed their lives, they said “I was shy, now I’m not”… ”I was scared, now I’m not”… “I didn’t like myself, but now I do”. 

Why not consider volunteering with A Way Out?… We can all make a difference.  For further information please contact, 01642 655071 or look on our website

Anita Burke, General Manager

Friday, 17 February 2017

All Change!

A Way Out is all about change – we transform lives from vulnerability, addiction and exploitation to living in safety, good health and fulfilment; we engage, we motive, we empower, we effect and facilitate positive, sustainable life changing CHANGE for women, young people and families in Stockton.

A Way Out is commencing the new  year with a few changes of our own – we say farewell to Jane Harmer, our dedicated CEO of 2 years and are we excited to welcome Sarah McManus  from the post of Services Manager to the positon of Interim Chief Executive Officer; we will be waving goodbye to our amazing Youth Co-ordinator, Graham Marsh and we are currently recruiting to welcome an equally amazing new co-ordinator (information on our website if you are interested in applying for the position!);  a corporate supporter has most generously changed £5000 worth of fund raising into an astonishing  £10,000; one of our supporters, Katie Ann Hunter,  is raising funds by changing her hair style and shaving her head!!...and to top off our start to 2017 our previous Chair of Trustees, Stuart Cornwell,  has received the tremendously well-deserved and prestigious honour of OBE in the New Year’s Honours List which recognises his devoted commitment and outstanding services to children and families … and it’s only January!!

We are really looking forward to experiencing what the rest of 2017 has in store for us and most of all how we can make this an exceptional year of positive change for our clients.

You too could consider making your 2017 a year of change – perhaps by becoming an A Way Out volunteer directly helping to impact and change the lives of our women and young people?  Or chose to make A Way Out a focus of your charitable giving and fundraising.    

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Preparations are under way for our favourite time of year.

Christmas is always very special for us and over the past 14 years we have seen some very exceptional Christmases.  Some of our activities have become  well established, passed on from one year to the next, just as family traditions are passed down from generation to generation.

In the past individuals, groups and families have decided to help A Way Out as part of their Christmas tradition.  They have organised collections of food and delivered to our centre at Stockton Riverside in time for our special Christmas drop-in; arranged to pack Christmas food parcels and hampers ready for distribution; and people of all ages have volunteered to wrap gifts. 

It is our dearest Christmas wish this year that supporting A Way Out will become ‘tradition’ for many more people.  This will help us to create warm Christmas memories for the people with whom we work, those who may otherwise be struggling most especially at over this season.  Many of our service users would be unable to have presents under a tree, or special Christmas food on their table without your help.  We are looking for donations of food items, selection boxes and gifts for women and children; alternatively you could text AWOX14 £3, £5 or £10 to 70070.  By 14th December we hope to have everything ready for our Christmas activities.

There’s something comforting about ‘tradition’, warm memories glowing as we remember the past igniting anticipation for what is to come… why not commit to supporting A Way Out and make it one of your Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Coffee Time

One of my favourite pleasures is taking time out to enjoy a really good cup of coffee.  A treat when it’s raining or when the sun is shining; a pick-me-up in the middle of the day or a relaxing chill-out at the end; enjoyed alone as “me’ time or a great way to catch up with a good pal… I can make almost any occasion into a good excuse to love a latte.  That unmistakably rich coffee aroma coupled with creamy frothy milk… can it get any better?… well actually yes!!

A Way Out has teamed up with local coffee shop, Mint Hobo in Yarm High Street to share the love.  Each cup served will come with an extra shot of compassion.  This forward thinking coffee shop have decided that every cup served by Mint Hobo will guarantee a small donation to A Way Out Charity. 

Imagine enhancing the experience with the assurance that every time you enjoy your refreshment you are also helping to sustain the invaluable work of this hard working charity.  You can help to provide an essential boost to our funding, ensuring continued delivery of our services to vulnerable women, families and young people in Stockton on Tees.

Mint Hobo is a great example of our ‘Stand to Change’ campaign, putting into action what you do best in order to stand with us to provide support, advocate and raise awareness for the work of A Way Out.

Why not pop along to Mint Hobo in Yarm, enjoy your favourite indulgence, sit back, relax and contemplate how you can be inspired by their amazing example of support?


Thursday, 1 September 2016

You can't undo Life

It’s so convenient clicking the ‘delete’ key wiping out mistakes, even more useful clicking  ‘undo’  putting things back as they were.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a ‘delete’ and ‘undo’ key in our lives?  Just hit ‘undo’ after a poor decision… eating one too many cream cakes, or smoking that first cigarette... Hit ‘undo’, put things back as they were, change to a positive course of action.  Another computer function –“control, alt, delete” – “rebooting”– sorting out confusion, giving a fresh start for the system – now that is a function we could really appreciate in life especially when completely overwhelmed!

Over the past year, A Way Out has been involved in a study funded by Northern Rock Foundation.  Working with SECOS and Durham University, using Participatory Active Research, we explored reasons leading to women engaging in sex work. Women from caseload undertook research training and worked alongside university academics conducting interviews.  Findings were delivered at a powerful dissemination event at Durham University last month. 

Findings highlighted many women attending A Way Out search for that ‘delete’ and ‘undo’ function for their lives.  A Way Out Workers already engage intensively supporting in ‘rebooting’ women’s lives, providing direction and encouragement to overcome complex , overwhelming issues like addiction, homelessness and finance; however, another finding confirmed women wish they had discovered A Way Out earlier in their lives – before events leading into sex-work. 

A Way Out has secured funding to provide exactly this service.  A Way Out’s new Blossom project will work with young women (aged 16-24) empowering them towards a positive future. Launching in October with a brand new team, we are looking for volunteers with a passion for supporting outreach, drop-ins and mentoring. 

Is it time for you to ‘reboot’ your system and launch into something new and exciting with us?  Contact us at or telephone 01642 655071 for more information.
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