Wednesday, 25 July 2012

We Will Get There!

Our CEO, Jessie, regularly sends round updates to the staff team here at A WAY OUT, to inspire and motivate us, and to let us know what she's up to.  This week, she sent around the following email about we as an organisation respond to the challenges of being a charity in this current economic climate.  We thought we would share it with you.  It's a great read!

"I love my catch up’s with the team; hearing from the heart of the projects, listening to the journey that people are on, not just clients but the staff team too.  I love the culture in A WAY OUT, the community and family spirit, the “can do” attitude; the sense of team and the feeling that you are never it on your own, that we are all working together for one cause.
One expression I have heard many times over the years is “We’ll get there!”

We have always had big dreams and ambitions as a local charity.  We have high hopes for our clients, our projects and our organisation.  But the reality is this is an incredibly challenging environment to work in.  We are working with some of the most excluded people in society, with women and young people trapped in some of the most difficult situations. We are also operating in a time when pressures for professionalism and excellence increase whilst available funding is being reduced and therefore the sectors capacity to respond to these demands becomes tighter.

So how do A WAY OUT respond to these challenges? As we always have done; with Faith! With a knowledge that no-matter how great the challenge that is set before us, we WILL get there!

I was at a round table meeting last week at Whitehall, with the minster for civil society Nick Hurd (The guy behind the big society)
It was interesting to hear the story of many other small charities and the challenges that they faced around funding and external pressures.  What was particularly heartening though was that it was evident that this resilience you experience here at A WAY OUT, was so clear to see in many other organisations under the radar; smaller charity & community groups from all across the country, represented at this meeting.  These projects aren’t delivering services for financial gain, they are delivering services because there is a need and they want to be a part of offering a solution to that need.  They will exist no matter what. They will be entrepreneurial, resourceful, responsive and flexible.  They will be driven by their hearts and not the bottom line.  They are in fact (as a previous Big society report stated), the bedrock of our society; A civil society.  The issue though, is how we get the decision makers, our authorities and public servants to recognise exactly what the value of these organisations is to our society and communities. To recognise exactly what our value to our communities is.

All the work I am doing nationally is centred around being a voice for this sector; working to get projects just like ours to appear on the radar of decision makers.  To influence policy that could have a direct affect on either our service users, or on our ability to deliver services.  To look at how we work together with other similar organisations to strengthen each other, and maximise our impact.
It is not an easy task, we have some up-hill struggles and a tide of culture to turn, but I have learned one very important lesson over the last 10 years of leading a way out…


Love from A Way Out x

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Prostitution... Choice or Abuse?

As you're probably aware, A WAY OUT has been working with vulnerable women since we began as a charity 10 years ago.  Some of these women are involved in street prostitution and one of the issues we have faced in raising awareness and support for our work with these women, is that many people think that women who work on the streets have chosen to be there. The need for their support is therefore questioned. Through our work over the last 10 years in Stockton, we have observed a very different story...

Nearly all the women we work with don't want to be working on the streets, in fact, they are often victims of circumstance.  They have often had traumatic pasts which can include historical abuse and other personal trauma.  The work they do often supports not only themselves, but other people; boyfriends, landlords and so on.

There is a clear correlation that for many of these women, experiences as a child and young adult affect the choices they make in later life.  Some of our projects here specifically target that age group - teaching them healthy living, alcohol and drug awareness and befriending them, so these situations are minimalised.   Some of our projects work with women already in street prostitution, helping to improve their safety, and to refer them onto more specialised services to show them a way out.

Some people believe our support of these women is not needed, but in reality, these women are like you and me.  If you met them on the street, they could be your sister, cousin, mother, daughter.  All they want is to have a "normal" life; having a coffee with friends, going out for lunch, taking a trip to the cinema, but because of past life circumstances that can lead to addiction, these women have become engrained in a non-choice activity that is completely stigmatised by society.

To help you make a decision on whether these women need or deserve support, here's a statement from one girl, who we'll call Lucy.  When interviewed about her life and the link between her addiction and prostitution she said:
  "That is my life, in those bags over there.  I have got nothing.  Nothing.  We were just messed up kids looking for a buzz.  Nobody ever imagined it would end up like this.  I've ended up in prostitution through it and I feel like I am being abused, every time I go out there.  The men, they know you need your drugs and they will make you do anything. It's not right and it has to stop."

We believe this is abuse, not choice. And it has to stop.  What do you think?

If you're interested in finding out more about our work to help prevent sexual exploitation, then head over to our website and our 'become a friend to Katie' campaign.

We think it's good to discuss and debate important issues.

Love from A Way Out x
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