How a Leamington charity transformed the lives of Warwickshire mums

THREE mothers who have received invaluable support from a Leamington charity when they were struggling to cope are so grateful that they wanted to share their stories.

Chapter 1, which is based at its Warford Lodge hostel in Radford Road, works with families with children who need support when in a vulnerable situation.

When 18-year-old Leamington woman Kerry Godwin was pregnant and struggling to find somewhere to live, she was directed to the charity by Warwick District Council.

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Sue Sellen, who runs Chapter 1, recommended that she enroll in Chapter 1’s ‘floating support’ programme to help her live independently.

Kerry said: “I was a bit of a novice. I’d never lived on my own before, and I had a new baby. I was a bit isolated. When a family member passed away, I don’t know how I’d have coped without professional support.

“Sue helped me find out about courses I could attend and my daughter and I were able to join in activities at Warford Lodge. We went on outings with the other mums and their babies, and used the garden there.”

She added: “As I got more confident, I became a service user representative for Chapter 1 and went to meetings where I met people from other schemes. I learnt a lot about how to cope in new situations, to deal with strangers and to get the most out of life.”

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Five years on, Kerry is now a volunteer at Chapter 1’s Children’s Centre and is studying towards a childcare qualification.

Mother-of-two Beckie Ashton was referred to the charity when her relationship with her partner had broken down and she had financial problems. She moved to Leamington to be nearer her family, but she did not know anyone of her own age.

She said: “I didn’t know where to turn. I was in a lot of debt. Sue changed everything for me.”

Ms Sellen put Beckie in touch with the organisation Christians Against Poverty, which helped her sort out her debts. Now aged 29 and expecting her third child, Beckie is in a position to be paying her debts off.

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Warwick mum-of-two Nicky, whose name has been changed to protect her 
identity, had been in an 
abusive relationship for 16 years and made several attempts to break away.

She said: “I was at bursting point with it and Chapter 1 helped me through. Now I’m making it on my own as a single parent.”

Nicky had fled from her partner with her sons and just the clothes they were wearing and a baby car seat, then spent six months moving from bedsit to bedsit. The Gap community centre then put her in touch with Chapter 1.

She said: “I had their support to help me go it alone. I was very down-trodden and had no self-esteem. I felt the whole world was against me.

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“Sue gave me the moral support I needed. She even got us a little holiday. It was the first time my son had seen the seaside.”

Nicky’s sons are now at school and she is hoping to find work which will enable her to help others who are in abusive relationships.

She said: “Having been in that position myself, I know what it does to you, but I also know that with a bit of support you can make it. Now I want to use my experiences to do something positive, and help other people change their lives too.”

Chapter 1 offers a varied support service, which includes offering advice on claiming benefits, managing a household budget and a home, as well as help with finding shelter and resolving relationship issues.

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Ms Sellen, who runs the Leamingotn service, said: “We work with any family who is referred to us if they have a child in the family under 11. They all need a helping hand, but their needs can vary enormously.

“We see them through with the reassurance that comes from knowing there’s someone to talk to, someone who will help keep their lives on track.”

The charity’s team at Warford Lodge hostel in Leamington provides supports people in Leamington, Warwick, Stratford, Kenilworth and the surrounding villages, but the families they work with are referred by a number of agencies, including the local authority and social services.

Over the past five years, this team has worked with 45 families. Across the UK, Chapter 1 works in partnership with 29 local authorities and has a growing network of 40 projects.

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