During my final day at A WAY OUT I started to think back over the years...
I started this charity nearly 12 years ago with a group of people, passionate and committed to seeing change in the lives of women and young people in Teesside. We had this crazy idea that poverty, addiction and abuse shouldn’t exist and we needed to do something about it. We named the charity A WAY OUT, because we believed there was a different way for Stockton’s most at risk. We believed that there was a way out of addiction, poverty and abuse and we could help people find that way out.
In the early days, this meant turning up in the red light areas of Stockton with cups of tea and hot dogs, speaking to young women who were selling their bodies and asking how we could help. They said they wanted a drop in centre, a chance to go to rehab, somewhere safe to live and someone to listen.
We couldn’t meet this initially, but we prayed and believed and visioned and gradually we became the solution to some of those needs.
12 years on we have a bespoke day centre; we have worked with over 6000 women and young people; supported 100’s into treatment, recovery and rehab; helped 100’s with housing needs; given out 1000’sof hot meals; and at a guess, we have given out over 100,000 cups of tea. 100’000 interactions with people at risk, 100,000 conversations that say “you are worthy”,” you are special”, “you are loved”.
As I was sorting through my things, my box of memories to take away with me; the inspirational message pinned to my pin board; photo’s; thank you letters from clients saying how much A WAY OUT has meant to them ; an invite to a VIP diner, or audiences with Ambassadors, Mayors and MP’s. I noticed, from the corner of my eye, a box of polystyrene cups, just plain white cups and suddenly the tears fell. I looked at those cups, and I think back 12 years, re-living my first experiences on those streets with a polystyrene cup in my hand, pouring tea and.. laughing.
When I thought back over 12 years of a ministry fighting to bring an end addiction, to end poverty and to end abuse, I heard laughter; I heard happy conversations; I saw smiling faces full of hope; I saw the fun experienced by children who’d previously known pain; I saw dance classes instructed by women who were putting a life of of abuse behind them: I saw donated clothes being given to a woman who’s body was ravaged by addiction; I saw jokes being told; I saw hot dogs being given and out and I saw... many, many cups of tea. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I sobbed as I realised that somehow, by the grace of God, I was a part of it all.
A WAY OUT has a new leader now, Genna Wilkinson. She is wonderful. The charity has an incredible future ahead and I know, beyond doubt, that the organisation will continue to bring love, hope and freedom for many years to come. A future of, not 100,000 cups of tea, but millions. I hope you will continue to follow A WAY OUT’s story and if you would like to stand with us, why not make a legacy donation via http://www.justgiving.com/awayout/Donate . Mark your donation “legacy gift” and A WAY OUT will ensure it goes towards making a future possible.