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Volunteer blog series - The heart of Restore

2nd April 2021

This is my 4th year of volunteering with Restore, and as it gets to 9.30pm on a Thursday evening, I’m still hit by the same nerves and apprehension. Since day 1 I’ve been passionate about supporting the women, but the feeling of ’what if I don’t find the right words to say’, or ‘how can I relate to and build a connection with these women when their lives are so far removed from my own’ doesn’t leave me. But each time I continue to be amazed by the relationships formed, and overwhelmed with how much the women have taught me about resilience and unconditional love.  

During Outreach, we welcome women into our van to have a chat over hot chocolate, offering a safe place where the women can get away from the outside world. Each of the women we see has a different story, and as I sit and listen to them, I’m humbled to hear about their lives, stunned by the bravery it takes for them to speak so openly and honoured that they’re sharing a part of themselves with us.

Each night is an emotional rollercoaster. There have been times when we’ve all been howling with laugher, and times that we’ve shed silent tears. I’ve been told by so many how this work leaves them with such a feeling of isolation; women who sex work so rarely get the opportunity to be heard, listened to and believed. It’s such a valuable reminder that we’re all human and all have the same basic needs, to be safe and loved. Something so simple as just knowing these women by name and remembering the details of their lives and taking an interest can mean so much to them.

As a nation we’re making strides in opening up the dialogue on so many difficult issues, whether it be mental health or homelessness, but there’s still a huge taboo and stigma associated with sex work. Is it uncomfortable to discuss? Yes absolutely. But we need to open up the conversation in the hope that if people truly understood the complexity surrounding street work and how being caught up in this world could happen to anyone, they may begin to see it through a different lens and lift the shame which is so often placed on these women.

I feel so privileged to be a part of such an amazing team of volunteers, who week after week find time in their own busy lives to show love, kindness and support to these women. The women we see are so used to people only wanting to be around them for what they can give, and so for me, there is real power in just being there. No agendas, no self-interest, no judgement, just there.

Leanne Walters