The Women Supporting Women project has run since 2013 and continues to help women across Tameside gain new skills, support one another and take positive steps for their future.
Initially set up with funding from the Peoples Health Trust and the Department of Health’s Volunteer Fund, this project has stood the test of time for Diversity Matters North West (DMNW). Helping over 120 women during its lifetime, with the help of over 50 volunteers, the Women Supporting Women Project (WSW), was the brainchild of the former Chief Officer of the charity, then known as Hyde Community Action, plus one half of the duo now serving DMNW as Chief Officers, Gemma Gaskell.
As for many charity projects, WSW has had funding from many different sources to continue to run the project, each funder being convinced, that this project makes a difference to the local community, and is worthy of their support. After the initial funding, WSW has been blessed with funds from The Volunteer Fund, The Big Lottery and is currently funded by Comic Relief.
The only way is up
They key to the success of the programme can be found in the volunteer/client relationships that enable the volunteer to get skills and confidence and the client to take important steps towards a better life for themselves. By leaning on one another, these women take steps towards new futures that help them both feel good about themselves and get new skills along the way.
A former volunteer explains: “The volunteering opportunity on the WSW Project helped me with my confidence to travel and to speak to strangers and to groups. As part of the project I started to travel by bus, which I never did before, and I used to get very nervous meeting new people, but I can now even give my opinion and I took the lead to run a Coffee Morning group for a year. I am now providing 121 peer mentoring support to a client in crisis and I work part time as a Carer Support Worker.”
Many of the women who have benefitted as clients from the programme have arrived in the UK from South Asia with very little knowledge of the culture and, in many cases, the language. But with the support of the WSW volunteers and project workers, they have turned a difficult situation into something positive. One of the clients explains: ‘’I was new in this country and I had my little daughter at home with me. I didn’t know if I could do anything until my daughter went to school. But the WSW Project supported me to join a college with a creche facility for my daughter. I almost couldn’t believe that I have achieved a GCSE in Maths and English! The project workers and volunteers also helped me to access an Interpreting Course with a local provider, which I also completed. I am now doing further training in teaching to become a teacher. I wouldn’t be where I am today, without the support of the WSW Project.”
No stopping us now
The staff members who have worked on the WSW Project and followed it since the early days finds the project very inspiring. The first staff member describes her experience: “One of the things I found most inspiring working on the WSW Project, is the women openly supporting and lifting each other during difficult times. I have laughed and held back tears with many women over the years. The project allows women to identify themselves, know who they are, what they believe in and where they want to go. I have seen women flourish with confidence and not just help themselves but offer support to other women in the community, and that’s what women supporting women is all about. With projects such as this, I feel we are now able to start to have conversation about sensitive topics such as mental health and domestic abuse openly. There’s still work that needs to be done, to overcome shame and stigma perceived by some parts of the community, but I feel privileged to have worked on the project and wish all the WSW volunteers, project workers and clients all the best.”
If you would like to volunteer on this project please ring us on 0161 368 3268 and speak to Fouzia Shaikh. If you feel isolated, experience low moods or low confidence and stress, or feel that crisis is imminent, please also give us a ring and we will do our best to signpost or help you.
Pictured: Isolation and loneliness are some of the common issues faced by women arriving in the UK from Asian countries