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Dignitaries attend opening ceremony of Dawn House

Anawim Dawn house

On 13 December, Anawim was joined by Baroness Corston, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, the Archbishop of Birmingham, councillors, business people, and other local VIPs at the opening ceremony of Dawn House, their new facility to support women leaving prison.

For 30 years Anawim has supported vulnerable women from across Birmingham to improve their lives. It began when two Sisters of Our Lady of Charity moved to Balsall Heath to help women working on the street. Two of the original sisters, Sr Magdalene and Sr Maisie, were at the launch of the new facility, witnessing first-hand how the project they started has flourished and grown into an acclaimed support service.

Working with women caught up in the criminal justice system, Anawim provides counselling, training, advice, family support, outreach work and work in prisons to help women break the cycle of re-offending and move towards a better future. They provide life changing support to at-risk women, empowering them to make positive changes and turn their lives around.

/media/news/library/wp_20161213_11_06_51_pro.jpgDawn House will offer accommodation to women leaving prison, together with counselling and support to move back into society. There is a communal dining area and lounge, six bedrooms and a staff bedroom so help is available at any time of day or night. There are also offices for Anawim’s staff and one-to-one counselling rooms. The new centre is the only place in the country to have a residential centre and support services on the same site.

At the opening ceremony guests heard from many speakers about the new facility and what it will mean for the women Anawim works with.

Baroness Jean Corston applauded Anawim as not only a safe place, but a beautiful place well known nationally, and even internationally, for its life-changing services. She recounted a story of a visit to New South Wales, where an Australian politician told her how impressed he was with Anawim.

/media/news/library/archbishop-longley.jpgBaroness Corston has supported and inspired the new facility, with Joy Doal, Chief Executive, using the Corston Report as a model for Dawn House. Baroness Corston revealed she had turned down a trip to Berlin with the Parliamentary Choir so she could come to Birmingham for the opening ceremony.

Archbishop Bernard Longley also spoke, giving a blessing and praying that the house be a place of safety and hope, mutual support, joy and newfound confidence. He described it as a new beginning for the women, who can share their gifts with one another and find self-belief. His Grace was inspired by the work, saying that the Sisters had planted a seed that is proving fruitful.

Kevin Caffrey, Chair of Father Hudson’s Board of Trustees, spoke of acorns becoming great oaks. He said the growth and continuation of the project is a tribute to the Sisters, whose vision is undimmed.

Robin Daniels from the JABBS Foundation paid tribute to all staff at Anawim who work steadfastly to support the women. The JABBS Foundation is funding Dawn House for four years – a sign of their confidence in the project.

Joy Doal thanked all those who have supported the new build including the Wellclose Trust, the JABBS Foundation, Jaguar Land Rover, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, Father Hudson’s Care and many more. She paid tribute to Anawim’s volunteers and staff, and to the women who make such incredible progress.

/media/news/library/joy-and-archbishop.jpgCanon Tony Williamson, Anglican vicar of Watlington, spoke of how pleased he was that Anawim could continue with the work of the Wellclose Trust. His father, Joseph Williamson, opened Wellclose House in 1950s London, which featured in the BBC drama Call the Midwife. Wellclose House offered accommodation to women in Cable Street. Rev Williamson said the upskilling and confidence-building that Dawn House provides on top of accommodation make it a potential game-changer.

After the speeches, Anawim’s fundraiser, Keeleigh, spoke about the positive outcomes Anawim helps women leaving prison to achieve. She then auctioned prizes donated by local businesses and raised £1,000, which will go towards fully furnishing Dawn House.

Anawim could never have succeeded without the support of the parish, represented by Fr Dominic Innamorati SCJ. In the early days, Anawim used the parish hall as a base, and links remain strong. One of the inspired architects of Dawn House was in attendance. Sunny Gill, who worked on the design with James Phillips and Naomi Fisher of APEC Architects Ltd, spoke of his pride at the building, which blends in with the local area and provides a homely yet secure space for personal development and growth. Bill Ozanne KSG, of the Archbishop’s Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue, paid tribute to the way Anawim is working with Sikh and Shia communities in the area.

The event ended with a buffet meal. Nobody attending could have failed to be moved by the sense of positivity and love evident at Anawim that day. 

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