In today’s #BelieveInPeople story we spoke to Gemma, a Women at Risk Worker at Change Grow Live. She told us how the belief of a recovery worker changed her life, and how it led to her role supporting sex workers in her area.
“I believe no one is too broken – they just need to be believed in.”
"The first person I remember really believing in me was my worker when I was pregnant and on a methadone prescription.
I’d come from a place where I was using drugs and was sex working, and I wasn’t wanted around by anyone. I was always told I was bad and not to come back, except by my parents. For everybody else, the rest of society, they all told me that I was worthless, I was beyond help.
I could see that worker putting the effort into me, but I didn’t accept her support at the time. That was the first time I was given some belief until I went into rehab in 2016 through Change Grow Live. I’d never stuck to anything in my life, but I was determined to see rehab through, and I made it through 18 months.
In rehab, at the beginning you just think “I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this” and they’re telling you that yes, you can get through this. You have to go through that to move forward, and they had that belief in me. What that embedded in me was that I could do this, and I had to face my past to move forward.
A voice for women at risk
Now, I work at Change Grow Live as a Women at Risk Worker. I work predominately with sex workers in the local area. I go out a couple of times a week at night making sure women have condoms, clean needles and injecting equipment, but we also go out regularly as a team with the police to make sure the girls have the support they need – whether that’s STI checks, housing support, or just to spend time in a safe place at our hub.
My biggest motivation is being a voice for these girls and knowing that they’re safe. It’s my past history as well – I’m really open about that. There are a couple of women in the area we work in who were down there when I was, and having more support has given them that strength to make a change.
We’ve built a really good relationship with the girls because they know we’re not there to help the police arrest them or to stop them doing what they’re doing – we’re there to make sure they’re safe and have the help they need.
No one is too broken
When I first took this job I knew that I had to work around the girls – I couldn’t expect them to work around me. When I was sex working one of the biggest barriers to me visiting a service was the opening times. 9 to 5 was our bedtime! Now, we’ve got late night clinics, and we think outside the box to make sure people can get the things they need to be safe.
There’s never an average night in my job. There’s been times where one of the girls was being followed and we had to get her to safety, we’ve had to split up fights, but sometimes we just sit down and have a cup of tea or something to eat with them.
We’ve accompanied people to the hospital and explained their situation to the hospital staff, just to make sure they’re treated with the same respect anyone else would be.
With my group of women, so often society has written them off and told them it’s their fault and their choice to be where they are. But that’s just not the case. I believe no one is too broken – they just need to be believed in.
Some of them have told me that they want to run their own peer support groups, which will be amazing. They finally feel like they’re being listened to, and they’re looking out for each other."
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