Norwich street girl project has a new vision
Norfolk Christian charity, the Magdalene Group has a new team and a new vision for its future work. Kevin Gotts reports.
The Norwich-based charity was formed almost 20 years ago to encourage the spiritual, physical and educational well-being of people working within the sex industry in the area.
Suzi Heybourne (pictured above), a former director of a mental health support charity, felt a call to return to delivering front line services and in September last year, took over as manager of The Magdalene Group.
A working mother of two children, and married to Mark, Suzi is passionate about her new role and is supported by two new staff members and has added eight more volunteers to the existing team.
Sarah Tremayne is responsible for delivering the Jigsaw Schools Prevention Programme in partnership with the Matthew Project. The priority is going into schools to highlight the issues of sex exploitation to High School children.
Helen Watson is the new Client Services Administrator.
“Volunteers are so important for delivering our services,” says Suzi, “which includes the ‘Drop In’ open three afternoons a week where we aim to promote a safe and positive place that offers a hot meal, a meeting place, a listening ear, support and friendship; the outreach where we go and meet with street based sex workers; and prison visiting for women from the Norfolk area.”
Suzi has found the role a steep journey: “One I feel compelling and consuming for me and the team. We work with other agencies to ensure that pathways and opportunities are there when the women are ready to take them.”
In the first few months the new team has attracted funding from Money for Mission to offer the women a chiropody service, which echoes a significant biblical activity of Mary Magdalene. Women who attend the Drop-In are involved in compiling a charter of how they want it to run. A Move On group has also been set up which helps in confidence building to pursue social needs like going to coffee bars and cinemas in the early evening for those that have moved on from serious drug use.
Suzi has developed a love for the women and sees this equally demonstrated by the staff and volunteers. She adds: “I honestly feel that I could not do this job without a Christian faith, and absolutely understand that God loves everyone of us and wants the best for us.”
What of the future? The Group has begun working on:
- Developing an Intensive Befriending Scheme to ensure that women released from prison have continuity of support for the first few weeks.
- Working with NOMS – to National Offender Management Services which delivers sex worker training to prison staff.
- Further develop the Jigsaw Programme in terms of education and prevention.
- To continue being available for the needs of women already caught up in these lifestyles, or at risk of being involved in abusive or exploitative relationships.