For the outreach team, 2016 was a very successful year. They welcomed 380 people from 24 different groups to one-day or longer stays: time that none of the participants would otherwise have been able to access. For some families, it is the only chance they have to spend together away from the hardship of their daily lives.

New to Minsteracres last year were Free the Way, the Recovery College in Newcastle, NECA, Age UK, Sunderland Carers’ Group and Stonham Young People’s Housing Project. All of these groups had heard of us through regional forums and networks.

Joining volunteers Tess, Moira, Maureen and Heather are OT student Erin, massage therapist Kirstyn and Peace Garden volunteer Bernie. All our outreach volunteers have experience working with people in crisis, and the experience and skill they bring is evident whenever you see them at work and in the feedback we receive from the groups.

One group from Martha House in London, returning for a second year, talked about how welcoming the team were, “They remember every name instantly, and always make sure that people feel included.”

Some of our team travelled to London to visit the Martha House group, and its sister-house Giuseppe Conlon, which offers space to 20 destitute asylum seekers, to understand what day to day like was like for them.

Outreach coordinator Liz Holmes said of their visit, “It increased our understanding of what day to day life is like. Both houses are staffed entirely by volunteers who live in the projects. We’ve seen them over a couple of years now, but after visiting we understand better the whole terrain they navigate and how they manage day to day. Many of them are professional people who cannot work. Some have taken to cycling round London for hours at a time to keep fit and occupied,” she said.

“I’m incredibly proud of the work the outreach team did last year, touching the lives of so many people, affirming, accepting and welcoming them. They are so good at what they do, and so lovely to work with.”

The team is delighted to have moved to a dedicated space in the main house with an office, treatment room, staff/sitting room with lots of storage and an informal seating area. “It demonstrates the continuing commitment Minsteracres has to outreach,” says Liz.