MBE for Norfolk Christian social action pioneer
Norfolk Christian social action pioneer, Val Dodsworth, who was instrumental in launching a string of initiatives including Norfolk Street Partnership, House of Genesis and Community Chaplaincy Norfolk, has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, by being made an MBE. Keith Morris reports.
Inspired by her Christian faith, former probation officer Val Dodsworth, aged 78, started the House of Genesis project from her own home in Sprowston in 2000 taking in ex-prisoners who would otherwise be homeless. Fifteen years on, the project has two homes in Thorpe St Andrew and on Dereham Road in Norwich, accommodating up to ten men.
The House of Genesis is run as a home for single homeless men. The accommodation is usually needed for between 9 and 15 months and is a stop-gap while the men find their feet again. Some of the residents are ex-offenders looking for a fresh start. Some are homeless, often due to a breakdown in a relationship.
Community Chaplaincy Norfolk is a recently launched service for men in Norfolk prisons – either Norwich or Wayland – and works in conjunction with The House of Genesis. The Community Chaplaincy project has arisen because of the need to support people as they leave prison, whether or not they need accommodation – and also to reach many others who need mentoring as they adjust to life back in the community.
Val, who lost her husband Bill in 1992, was also instrumental in the launch of Norfolk Street Pastors (now Norfolk Street Partnership) back in 2006. At the very first meeting at Norwich City Hall in the autumn of 2006, Val clearly felt God’s call to volunteer as its first co-ordinator and with here experience was the driving force behind the launch in Norfolk.
She set to work to contact churches, the local authority, police and other ministries in Norwich and in an extraordinarily short time she had found 18 people to sign up to the first training course in January 2007 and the project grew from there.
Val has been made an MBE for services to homeless people and to the community in Norwich.
She told Network Norfolk: “When I received the letter from the Government Office I thought it must be about taxes or the Police. When I sat down and opened it and it said 'the Prime Minister has recommended to the Queen that you receive an honour', I just sat down and burst into tears. I thought what a carry-on. I was amazed that someone like me could receive a medal, an honour. I just wish that my dear mother could have been here to see it as she would have been over the moon.
“From the beginning, the House of Genesis has been a work of God, though the ups and downs and when I thought it was going to die back in 2008. God has resurrected it and now with two houses it is absolutely flourishing.”
John Betts, who helped val set up Norfolk Street Partnership, said: “Val is a stalwart of the Norfolk Christian community. When we set up Norfolk Street Partnership she was the key person who caught the vision and ran with it. Her tireless work brought the organization into existence and set the ministry in motion. The people of Norwich owe Val, under God, a sincere debt of gratitude. I am delighted that Val's wonderful work has been recognized in this way.”
House of Genesis trustee, Alan Lusher, said: "Val has been a remarkable inspiration to me and many others in the way she tirelessly demonstrates the love of God in practical ways to those she has been called on the help. There are very many ex-offenders and homeless men who are so very grateful to Val. She is a real treasure to our community here in Norwich and she truly deserves this honour."
Read some of our previous articles about Val
Norfolk Community Chaplaincy
House of Genesis
Norfolk Street Partnership
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