I have been attending the Derby Women’s Centre for a few months now seeing my fantastic counsellor, who has started me on a fantastic journey of self-discovery. The person I thought I was, is gradually getting replaced by who I was before my trauma happened. Although I still have a long way to go, small changes are making a huge impact in my day to day life. I have found poetry and art a useful tool to enable me to explore the feelings and emotions buried deep within. By writing and putting things on paper it has helped me make sense and change my perception on a lot of what I believed true. Guided and supported by my counsellor helping me make sense of these suppressed emotions is starting to put me in a better place.

From the day I walked through the door, there has always been a warm welcome for me here. It’s a place where myself and other women can be themselves and nobody judges you. There have been a lot of laughs here and I enjoy being able to chat to the other women while we’re busy in the workshops. Derby Women’s Centre has been like a second home to me and has been a real lifeline in helping me to rebuild my life again. I even felt confident enough to get on stage as a model during the fashion show fundraiser in October 2011, which is something that seemed a million miles away when I first came to the Centre. I feel that my health would suffer if Derby Women’s Centre were to no longer exist. Coming here helps me to cope with a lot of stress in my life. I care for a close family member who has cancer and Alzheimer’s and have some health issues myself but thanks to DWC, I am able to keep this under control. They have helped me to get where I am today and I will always be grateful for their help and support.

I originally approached Derby Women’s Centre as I felt frustrated with the type of help that I had been offered through Derby PTS and I was not in a position to afford private counselling. I visited the DWC website and felt it would be something for me. After asking my GP for advice she said she also thought it would be a good idea. I have been having counselling now at DWC since February 2013 and I feel relaxed and welcome every time I step foot inside the door. I have been allowed to express my thoughts and feelings in a calm and rational environment and my counsellor is patient and doesn’t make me feel rushed to meet ‘targets’ or pushing me into other forms of therapy that I don’t want. I feel I am allowed to take my time and I have noticed that the sessions have started to give me more confidence and peace of mind. The flexibility and relaxed nature of the counselling sessions makes them more comforting and familiar so they feel more like a ‘chat’ than a ‘task’ or a formal meeting.

During the four years I have been coming to DWC, I have been able to access many activities and services. Each has been helpful in its own way as I’ve been able to gain something positive to address my many and varied issues. DWC has been there for me to make this slow process possible – never judging me and being there. The range of services is amazing, even just landing a patient ear over a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits. I have attended confidence courses, relaxation classes, counselling, a healthy eating course, computer courses, coffee mornings , art and craft courses, the Freedom Programme, and Domestic Violence drop-in sessions. They have also supported me through by referring me to advocacy at Mental Health Services, accompanying me to Job Centre interviews and telephoning debt agencies to arrange repayment schedules (as my ex –husband left me in a financial mess) .

Many of the sessions include guest speakers that are relevant to the particular session. For example, Rape Crisis visited and a lot of women find this invaluable as they are reluctant to enter the Rape Crisis building as they feel ashamed and would feel more humiliated entering so obvious a building. DWC offers them and other women with various issues access to support by being an outwardly inconspicuous building.

If DWC were no longer to exist, I would be devastated. I would retreat back into my shell, become isolated and be back to square one as there is nowhere as unique as DWC for the haven and hope it offers to vulnerable women of all creeds, religions/belief and social backgrounds. To lose their unconditional support would take away the expectation of the achievement of a reasonable quality of life. If I could say one thing to potential donors who could help DWC to survive it would be this: for a flower to begin to survive, grow and bloom it needs water, air and sunshine. A flower is fragile and vulnerable and so are the women that use DWC. To us, DWC is our water, air and sunshine. We can breathe again.