It's a Monday afternoon and the doors are open wide to welcome women, young and old, into our building for a 'drop-in'. Kettle's boiling food is prepared, staff and volunteers are lining the halls talking through expectations for the afternoon ahead.
It's a normal - busy - day at A Way Out.
There will be women popping in who we know. Their situations, struggles, accomplishments and successes form part of the A way Out story. There will be those new to A Way Out. They've come with a friend, or like the lady who just knocked the door in tears, just desperate for food and some support. Then there will be girls who we have known for years. We see them every week, and every week we ask them, we plead with them, to come off the streets and into A Way Out. It's always a good day when we welcome one of those precious women through the doors and onto the couch for a coffee.
Not everyone, though, understands why we do what we do.
"Do you want a cuppa?" I ask one young pregnant mum.
"Course. I'll make it."
"No, you sit down and I'll get it for you."
"I don't get you lot, skivvying about after us. I wouldn't, all you get is grief back."
I actually stopped dead in my tracks when she said that. Her impression of what we do is to be 'used' and undermined. The truth couldn't be more different.
See, we understand that each of the women who walk through our doors have intrinsic value. They have worth and they have a purpose. A precious gem in a paper bag has exactly the same value as one set in a beautiful gold ring, so circumstantial settings and outward appearance don't change a person's value.
We believe that. And knowing that about yourself can change everything. It altars what you choose to do, and what you allow to be done to you. It stirs hope and belief, it helps a person see past the now and want more for themselves.
In fact, that message of Love, Hope and Freedom, and our passion for instilling a sense of worth and value into women, young people and families, regardless of circumstance, has seen doors open for A Way Out locally, regionally and nationally this year already.
But in just a few days time our work - our message of Love, Hope and Freedom - will extend it's reach across the globe into Africa.
Partnering with a team from Stockton Baptist Tabernacle, one of our team will be travelling to Uganda and Kenya to deliver workshops and teaching aimed at helping raise aspiration and resilience in women blighted by poverty and abuse.
The trip has been entirely paid for through external fund raising - so none of your generous monthly gifts have contributed to the mission.
Now, of course we can't wipe out the vastness of African poverty in just a few short weeks, or change cultures long established. But we can plant seeds of hope. We can speak love over people's lives. We can show a company of women thousands of miles from our home that they are loved, valued and treasured.
We'll keep you updated on that all unfolds.
Pleas let me take this opportunity to say thanks again for all that you do in praying, financially supporting and volunteering at A Way Out. We couldn't do this without you.
Watch this space next month for how your Christmas gift could be doubled!
Have an amazing week,
from A Way Out x