The Norfolk and Norwich Christian community website

Hitchike from Norwich to Hebron to transform lives 

Two members of the Hebron staff team hitchhiked 350 miles from Hebron House in Norwich to the village of Hebron in Wales reliant only on their wits and public generosity. Jenny Seal finds out why. 

A year ago the staff team at Hebron Trust, a 10-bed female only rehabilitation centre in Norwich, decided that on top of their day jobs they would raise money to create a bursary for women who had no other means of entering the programme. Since then the small team has raised £15,200 and the challenge has taken two staff members on an adventure cross country reliant only on their wits and public generosity.

Hebron Trust in Norwich is one of just five female-only residential rehab centres in the country. Motivated by a Christian ethos it has been supporting women to transform their lives for 31 years. But recently, with Local Authority funding harder to access, it has been increasingly difficult for women who critically need the service to enter the programme. 

Emma Pawsey, the Manager of Hebron Trust, said: “Every year it gets harder and harder to keep the funding coming.  It gets cut every year, so as a staff team we have decided to do a lot of fundraising ourselves – to fundraise for a bursary to change a woman’s life, to come into Hebron.”

In their own time the staff team have been working hard organising an array of fundraising activities including Christmas Fayres, jumble sales, cake sales and selling friendship bracelets. About six months ago the team dreamt up a fundraising challenge that would involve travelling from Hebron in Norwich to the village of Hebron in West Wales.

On July 2 Claire Pretty, Admin Support Worker, and Emma Pawsey set off on the Hebron to Hebron Challenge.  With no money whatsoever they had to travel by any means or mode of transport necessary 350 miles across the country. 

Emma said: “We were on buses, tractors, cars, taxis, Tesco delivery vans.  It was tough because we didn’t know what was going to happen next but the British public are amazing. People are amazing. We never had a bad experience. And everybody that gave us a lift then handed us money.” 

She continued: “We were in tears daily because we were so moved by people’s generosity. When we tell people the story behind the women’s lives who come into Hebron, people just give.”

Claire agrees: “The highlight was meeting so many wonderful people and the generosity of the general public.” 

A graduate of Hebron as well as a staff member Claire said: “I learnt that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. Being in recovery myself it’s great to not have that fear any more. I now have the confidence and self-esteem and self-worth to be able to do these things. And to be able to raise money for a charity that basically saved my life”.

Supporters donated accommodation and meals and the pair even managed to promote their cause by blagging a radio interview on BBC Hereford and Worcester. The pair achieved their target reaching the village of Hebron on Friday, July 6 and raising a total of £9,600 to add to the £5,600 already raised by other staff initiatives.

At an event held at the Virgin Money Lounge in Norwich on August 8 to celebrate the success of the challenge, one recent graduate of Hebron shared her experience of the charity.  Kirsty Arnold (29), who completed the six-month drug rehabilitation programme in April, arrived at Hebron House in what she says describes as “maybe a couple of use ups away from dying”.

She said: “I was broken. I didn’t even know who I was. I wanted to die but I didn’t want to die. I couldn’t really speak properly.  I didn’t even know why I was there. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs when I got there.”

“I slowly came out of it. They’ve taught me how to think again, to trust again, they gave me a secure place to open up, the staff there treat you as an individual and not like a drug addict.  Whether you are laughing or crying the staff will help you. I’ve also got taught time management and money management. Also I learnt boundaries and how to say no.”

“I’ve had just over nine months clean,” she says. “And do you know it’s been the best nine months of my life. Hebron saved my life and I’ll be eternally grateful.”

Kirsty realises that she was privileged to be able to access the help. She says: “The only trouble is I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my family.  Because I couldn’t get funding.  It would have taken a minimum of 5 months, and then there would only have been a 50/50 chance of getting into rehab.  I couldn’t have done it in the community. I just couldn’t. I needed to be taken away. I’m thankful that my parents had the savings to put me through Hebron.” 

The staff team continue to fundraise so that more women can access the support they need to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.  On Saturday, October 13, 2-4pm they are hosting a Jumble Sale at  at St Thomas Norwich on Earlham Road.

If you would like to give to the Hebron to Hebron fundraising challenge please click here.

Photo (L-R): Claire Pretty, Kirsty Arnold and Emma Pawsey  

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