Trustees week by Julia Rowlands, Chair of Trustees
When I was asked if I’d write this blog for Trustees Week, firstly I had to check with my 14-year-old daughter, exactly what a blog is!
I was asked to say what it’s like to be a Trustee for Trevi – a women’s charity in Plymouth. Well, for me that’s easy. I am absolutely privileged to be part of this amazing and very much needed service.
For those who are not familiar with Trevi, it was started by Dawn French’s mum, Roma back in 1993. Roma at that time was a drugs worker and herself and fellow workers saw the need for a residential rehabilitation centre where mothers could come with their children and undertake drug rehabilitation whilst caring for their children. The only alternative to this at that time, and this remains today, was separate residential rehabilitation for the mother and the child going into foster care if there were no appropriate members of the extended family to care for the children.
Although having survived many turbulent times, Trevi continues today. However, under the assistance of the Lloyds Bank Foundation Enhance Programme, a rebrand of our services recently took place and Trevi House is now known as Jasmine Mother’s Recovery with the overarching charity now known simply as just Trevi. Whilst the name of the residential rehabilitation centre has changed, our values and ethos remain and our commitment to enable women to rehabilitate with their children remains in the forefront of our work. Everyone I have met who has had the opportunity to go into Jasmine either for the purposes of rehabilitation, employment or volunteering is moved by the work undertaken here and the commitment of both staff and residents to their recovery.
It is fair to say that in the 27 or so years since Trevi’s inception, it has grown beyond recognition. In the last couple of years alone, it has expanded to include the Sunflower Women’s Centre, the first and only Women’s Centre in Plymouth where counselling and therapeutic services are available to any woman who feels that she needs these, as well as support of many kinds, including, until Covid-19 impacted on services, a drop-in facility.
Sunflower Women’s Centre was borne out of the idea of our CEO Hannah Shead who saw the need for women leaving our residential rehab with or without their children having a need for ongoing support once they returned to the community. We were lucky enough to purchase a new building for the Centre to operate out of in February 2019 with the help of a substantial grant from the Ministry of Justice and other funders including the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Charles Hayward Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund. Since then, services we are able to offer have continued to grow and the Centre is now a recognised vital service to the women of Plymouth and surrounding areas, alleviating other services such as mental health, housing, benefits advice and the like.
Out of the Centre runs the Pause Plymouth project. This is a national project that we were successful in bidding for the contract for. This project is due to run for three years and its purpose is to work with women who have had two or more children removed from their care – many are placed either in long term foster care or, more often than not, adoption. To say this is an absolute vital service is not an overstatement. These women have been left traumatised by their experiences, not only from their family life experiences but also the system itself. Imagine being told time and time again that you’re not good enough to look after your children, that you require too much therapeutic input to get to the stage of being able to care for your children and your children can’t wait while you do that. Then your children are removed, and no one offers you the help to enable you to access the services you require to address those issues.
Our Pause team go out and find these women and take the time to get to know them and to help them to get the help that they need. Some of these women remain in their homes from which their children were removed, constantly living with the grief from the loss. Some of these women don’t receive the right state benefits they require to live, as well as feeling trapped in violent and abusive relationships. Our workers take the time to help them achieve what they need. The transformation of some of these women is overwhelming. They start to trust professionals again; they start to blossom and use skills that they didn’t know they had.
In February 2020, following a feasibility study enabled via a grant from Tudor Trust and assistance from Green Pastures, Trevi was able to open its third Centre, Daffodil Family Residential Assessment Centre. Again, this was a vital service needed in the South West of England in order to accommodate families involved in Court proceedings regarding their children. This service allows parents the opportunity to have a residential assessment in respect of their parenting skills and ability to care for their children whilst being in a safe and nurturing environment. Needless to say, our feasibility study was not in vain and this service has become what we hoped it would and is gradually gaining the respect of those involved in children’s services.
So, what is it really like as a trustee for Trevi? It’s tough and emotional work of course but the staff we are lucky to have employed are fantastic. They work tirelessly to support the women and families we work with across all three services. They not only provide practical help and support, but they also provide emotional support and friendship within the confines of their jobs too. Some of these women have never had positive role models in their lives, our staff can and do offer this regularly.
This is why I’m feel privileged to be involved with Trevi. When I became involved back in September 2017, my hope was to be able to leave Trevi in a more sustainable position than how I found it. I hope in time to achieve that but that is not possible without the help of staff, volunteers, service users, supporters and other trustees alike.