The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Hebron's 25 years of recovery and changed life

Donna certificateThis year Norwich Christian charity Hebron trust is celebrating 25 years of working with women with addiction. Four women who have been through the recovery process spoke about their experiences at Hebron and of their changed lives afterwards.

By Helen Baldry

The anniversary celebration event was held at Hebron Trust’s AGM on September 24 at St Luke’s Church Centre in Norwich. The audience included members, supporters, volunteers, staff and past residents and the warmth and love of those present for Hebron was evident.

Kath Habershon, Care manager and Volunteer Co-ordinator introduced some of the past residents of Hebron to talk about their experiences in rehab and their changed lives now.

Caroline addressed the audience confidently, proud of her achievements. She describes herself as ‘a trying girl’. She told the audience that while she was in rehab at Hebron she used to eye-up the keys in the pockets of staff-members knowing that getting hold of them meant access to the drug cabinet and to the doors. Caroline left in 1998 and she returned ten years later as a volunteer and was entrusted with the keys. She said, “It felt good that Hebron trusted me” and describes the place as  “My saving grace.” She added, “It changed my life completely.”

Catherine talked about her life of addiction, “I was running Olympian-fashion into a coffin. I was at a crossroads of death or life and I thank the lord I found Hebron.” Catherine spoke of how she was adamant that nobody was going to make her a Christian and was in denial for a long time, even after she left but she absorbed something there. “When I walked through the front door I had an immediate sense of God’s presence. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life.”

Linda and familyDonna left in 2009. She described how she felt when she arrived at Hebron.“I didn’t like myself at all. There was no point in anything. I had nothing left to give anybody.” Donna then spoke about the changes while she was there, “It’s such a loving place. I’ve learnt to laugh and enjoy things. You are loved back to life.” She talked about leaving Hebron to become a better mother, she was now there for her children.

Linda left most recently in 2011. Before her tine at Hebron she had been through two detoxes which hadn’t worked. She read some testimonies on Hebron’s website “I knew that was what I wanted. I was able to be loved and I was able to give love. I thought I knew God but being at Hebron made me realise I didn’t and that I never had a relationship with him. He’s now my best friend.”

Linda resettled in Norwich and describes her daughter’s willingness to settle with her as ‘miraculous’ as she was set against it. Linda is delighted that their relationship is back how it should be, “Now she’s the daughter and I’m the mother.” She took several qualifications while at Hebron including English, Maths, IT training and floristry. She said,  “I’m emotionally and physically ready to get out there and get a paid job.”

Nik Vitkovitch, Chairman of Trustees dealt with the business part of the AGM. He said “Although this year has been had been financially challenging, the trustees and the staff are committed to the women they serve."

Mo Dunn Chief Executive spoke about the 25 years experience Hebron gained in the field of addiction and recovery, which was commended by Anne-Louise Schofield, Strategy Manager at Norfolk DAAT who spoke from the perspective of buying Hebron’s services.

A concerning fact is that nationally, 37% of people stay in drug treatment services for more than 2 years. They enter services because they want to leave their drug dependency behind but they often become stuck in the treatment stage. Anne-Louise spoke of Norfolk’s aim to provide a whole network of support and commended Hebron’s work, “You’ve been doing this for 25 years; you’ve embedded recovery in your ethos.” Anne-Lousie spoke about celebrating recovery in our communities and trying to increase the county’s vision for recovery. She explained that there is still a lot of stigma attached to people with drug and alcohol addiction. Hebron is sometimes viewed as a last resort service but what it needs to be is the right service at the right time.

Caroline and ShirleyGuest Speaker Margaret Whitaker told the story of how the idea for Hebron started in the early 1980s in a terraced house on Knowlesley Road by Bill and Norma Gordon who, after responding to a dream about drug users repeating the cycle of drug abuse decided to open their home to people in need. They used their own resources to start the charity. This was a time when the concept of residential rehab  was in its infancy and the couple used their own resources to start the work. In 1987 the property on Stanley Avenue was purchased and the Gordon family and some volunteers moved in – many of whom were at the anniversary meeting. Times were tough: the authorities questioned them closely about their spiritual motives and the organisation operated on a financial knife-edge.

Margaret said, “No-one, whether staff, resident or volunteer leaves Hebron unchanged. Even if a placement fails they never forget Hebron. Hard edges are challenged and rubbed off; qualities are recognised and valued.” She spoke of her own experience “I felt as if someone had their arms around me since I arrived.”

James East, Chaplain to Hebron house said, “It’s a place that works. Hebron delivers time and time again. Renewed lives gives people the chance to gather back what they’ve lost.” James is also pastor of Norwich Central Baptist Church and he talked about a new initiative where a property ajoining the church is being used a place for women to continue their recovery after they have completed their time at Hebron. The initiative is a partnership between NCBC, Hebron and Hope in Action. 

The impact of Hebron over the past 25 has been immeasurable; hundreds of lives have been touched, including the families and friends of the women who have stayed there. Hebron shows people that they can do something different.


Pictured top: Donna holding her certificate. Middle: Linda with her family and Bottom: Caroline with Shirley who has supported Hebron since it opened.

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