The hall was not only beautifully decorated but also packed out with people – clients, their friends and family, and people with an interest in Anawim’s work. Fortunately, there were plenty of festive turkey sandwiches to go round!
“This is where change happens”
We heard from course leaders about some of Anawim’s diverse programmes, including self-esteem and leadership, a substance awareness programme, and health and social care. The course leaders were all clearly passionate about the work Anawim does, and were so proud of their students’ achievements.
We also heard from some of the students who have been taking the courses. All of them had experienced real challenges, with one woman saying that before she came to the centre she was ‘bankrupt in every sense of the word’. Their stories were all very moving; from the woman who had gained enough confidence to be able to stand up on stage in front of everyone, the woman who had not ‘touched a drop’ of alcohol for months now, the woman who had rebuilt her life after experiencing a serious domestic violence incident, and the woman who had a judge recently tell her that it would be a ‘privilege’ to put her back in contact with her child. What was really striking was the journey all of the women have been on, and the many successes they had achieved along the way.
Joy Doal, Anawim’s chief executive, was only half-joking when she said that next year they would have to replace the sweets on the tables with a box of tissues.
The gratitude the women showed to the staff and their peers at Anawim shone through, with one client saying that she’d found her true family at the centre. Another mentioned that she sees her support worker as a friend rather than someone she works with. As we know, facilitating positive relationships is such a key aspect to supporting someone on their journey to desistance from crime (see here for more information) and it was so evident that the staff and volunteers at Anawim work really hard to achieve meaningful and supportive relationships with the women they support.
“Anawim walked that hard road with me”
We also heard from Lucy Baldwin, Senior Lecturer in Community and Criminal Justice, about how vital services like Anawim are to the women they work to support and the communities they live in.
As the policy landscape, including the changes implemented to the Criminal Justice System through the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, continues to shift it is really important that services like Anawim are able to continue their essential work - providing gender-specific support to women who experience a range of complex and multiple needs.
For us, it was the women’s stories that really made the day and showcased the great work that the voluntary sector is capable of. Thank you for the invite Anawim; we are looking forward to celebrating all your and your clients’ successes in the future!