A group of 11 people ventured north from a Passionist sister house in London for a three-day break with our outreach team this week.
The Passionist community bought Martha House in Tottenham in November 2014 to increase accommodation for migrants in London, providing food and shelter for people needing accommodation for short periods. Most of the group already know each other – although not all stay at Martha House, they meet there regularly for a meal on Wednesday evenings.
Some are returning for a second time, and this time they were bubbling with excitement rather than the anxiety which heralded their arrival last year. Then, none of them knew what to expect. This time they were ready for three days of peace, quiet and calm in lovely surroundings, and they set about making the most of it.
“I came back for the people, but mostly for the nature and the peace,” says one.
“Last year was ok, but this year was better – we went to the sea!” says another. The sea was at South Shields where they spent several hours one sunny afternoon. Some had never seen the sea and were especially excited. Many of them dipped a toe in the water and one hardy soul actually went for a swim. What was obviously a memorable day was rounded off with a walk along the promenade, a climb up Trow rocks and a dinner of fish and chips.
The outreach team had gone to some lengths to make their stay as memorable as possible. Once again they spent time in the Peace Garden with Ross and Katrina from Let’s Get Growing, painting, pottering and enjoying the space. One evening the outreach team arranged a film night in the lounge featuring the movie Castaway with popcorn and cola.
Outreach coordinator Liz Holmes and her volunteers Moira Waugh and Tess Gooch are clearly old hands at this now. “It was all very chilled,” says Liz. “The majority were returning and it was so nice to see them coming back.
“You’ve got to be flexible, and trying to organise anything can be a challenge, but Jo and Connor who lead the group are very laid back, so we didn’t have to work hard at getting them all to relax.”
Whilst here, visitors and outreach team were interviewed by the local Hexham Courant newspaper for a feature in their forthcoming environment supplement.