This week I had the chance to speak to the lovely Laura, whose been doing all sorts of things in Harrogate over the years. She’s had experience of working with people through various relationship, emotional, and mental health challenges.
I thought I’d glean some of her wisdom, and share it here on the Hub blog as part of our month raising awareness of relationship issues.
So Laura, tell us a bit about your background…
I trained as a midwife in 2013 and I’ve worked in all disciplines – antenatal, delivery suite, postnatal, and I’ve specialised in perinatal* mental health. After training as a midwife, I volunteered for Mercy UK for about 18 months, helping two pregnant women, who were struggling with mental health problems and low self-esteem.
* if like me, you know nothing about midwifery vocab, ‘perinatal’ means ‘relating to the weeks before or after birth’. New word for the day!
And what have been you up to more recently?
I’ve been doing mental health coaching in schools, teaching young people about emotional wellbeing and how to have good relationships. As a midwife, I’ve seen the effects that negative sexual experiences can have upon people. I encourage young people to think about their choices. Every choice we make has a consequence, and good choices can lead to good consequences. As a midwife, I saw women suffering from all sorts of negative experiences, but sometimes it felt like I was just sticking on plasters. Now that I’m coaching it’s about doing preventative work.
However, throughout all my work, both as a midwife and a coach, I’ve encouraged people that it’s never too late to change how we choose to live our lives. Don’t let your past define your present, because then it will have an impact on your future.
Why do you do the work you do?
I’ve definitely been going on a journey. Sometimes you don’t always know why you’re doing what you’re doing, but then you look back in retrospect and you can see why God has given you the experiences you’ve had. My past experiences with midwifery have helped me with what I’m doing now.
My work has been about loving people, and I’ve always had a heart for women. I set up ‘Sanctuary’, a women’s outreach ministry at my church, St Mark’s, and also ‘Ready Steady Mums’, a postnatal walking group, where mums (and dads) take a walk round the Stray and then head to St Marks for teas and coffees afterwards.
As a midwife, I’ve worked with social services to help women in abusive relationships and helped dysfunctional families build relationships through family group conferences. I want to speak for truth and justice, helping people to get rid of the lies that have been spoken over them, and speaking up for people who can’t speak up for themselves, whether that’s women who have been trafficked, suffered domestic abuse or experienced other trauma. There are some verses in the Bible (Isaiah 61) that are about binding up the broken-hearted and setting the captives free. That’s become a real mantra for me. I want to help people live out their full potential.
What kinds of advice do you give to people about relationships?
Recently, I’ve particularly been giving advice to parents. I’ve got involved with a new project, myLifePool Harrogate. We support the well-being of mothers and fathers through the journey of parenting. Postnatal and prenatal depression is a common issue that affects relationships, and it’s not just mothers who struggle with this.
About 1 in 10 men suffer from postnatal depression, but usually it’s hidden. It’s often the case that the father will suddenly have a meltdown about 3 months after the child’s birth. We want to support parents through struggles like this so that they don’t feel lonely or excluded.
We spend 25% of the time talking about the relationships between the parents. It’s not ‘fluffy’ stuff like some people might think, it’s really important. If the parents’ relationship is good and healthy, everything else falls into place – otherwise it can all come tumbling down. We talk quite a lot about love languages, which is all about how we connect with each other and how we express the value we see in the other person.
With all relationships, I would say that communication is really important, and also finding help and support. And that’s where places like the Harrogate Hub come in. It’s so important to find support when you’re facing challenges in your relationships.
If you’re struggling in any of your relationships at the moment and need someone to talk to, please call in to the Hub.
We’re here to listen and offer non-judgemental support. You will receive kindness and love. We will walk alongside you through your challenges and make sure that you get the support you need.
Our knitted angels have been causing a bit of a stir in Harrogate!
If you haven’t already seen or heard about our knitted angels, then do drop by and have a look at our beautiful window display. You can also take an angel home with you, or you could give one to someone as a present this Christmas.
Our Knit and Natter group, along with other knitters around Harrogate (and beyond!) have knitted 100s of these angels, each with a little message from the Hub, to spread hope and love this Christmas. You can read more about the project here.
Lots of passers-by have been standing and staring at the Hub window! And since we’ve started giving out the angels, we’ve heard all sorts of stories, and met people from all over the place.
We’ve had visitors from:
- the local area – Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon, Spofforth, Bradford and Leeds
- Newcastle, Northumberland, Cambridge, Durham, Manchester.
- Scotland and Wales
- Germany, Spain, the Netherlands
- And even New Zealand!!!
People have been taking angels for all sorts of reasons this Christmas.
We’ve heard stories of joy and sadness. One visitor told us they’d lost an angel from their Church knitted nativity scene, and so we provided them with a new one! Another person came in to collect an angel for a relative, who’d recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They wanted to give them a message of hope and love.
Another visitor wanted to take an angel so they could start a project at their church. And others have come in to take away angels as gifts for their children.
It’s also been wonderful to see people’s generosity. Many visitors have been giving us donations for their angels, which is helping us raise money for our work.
You can watch a video and read an article about our angels project over at the Harrogate Advertiser website. They came to visit us when we first completed our window and have helped us raise awareness of our work.
If you know someone who might be feeling lonely or sad, or struggling in some way this Christmas, why not drop into the Hub and pick up an angel for them? We want everyone in Harrogate to know they are loved and not alone; to know there is somewhere to turn when life becomes a struggle.
Sending you all Christmas greetings from the Harrogate Hub!
Written by Ella Green
It’s hard to believe that people could ever feel lonely in England’s ex-happiest place to live.
Unfortunately, it’s a sad truth that often gets forgotten about in Harrogate’s daily hustle-bustle, thriving businesses and stream of tearooms and bars. Our busy social scene can masquerade the worrying reality that there are lots of lonely people in our town.
In fact, three quarters of people in Yorkshire and the Humber say that they have suffered with loneliness, according to recent research by the Yorkshire Post in partnership with the Campaign to End Loneliness.
Here at Harrogate Hub, we aim to combat these issues by reaching out to our community, because no-one in our town should be lonely, isolated or unsupported.
We have people coming through our doors with a whole variety of issues, from people needing help filling in forms to people who are suffering abuse, but by far the biggest need we see is loneliness.
Our friends over at Supporting Older People, based at East Parade’s Community House, share our passion for helping those in need.
Julia Lightfoot, who is Home Visiting and Activities Manger at the 30-year-old charity, said: “There’s a massive loneliness issue in Harrogate because it’s an aging town; a lot of people’s friends and family members have died.
“When people are a unit, like a husband and wife, it’s great… but when one of them passes away, the other is left thinking ‘what do I do now’?
The ‘what do I do now?’ moment is something that almost everybody will go through and will inevitably start to feel lonely.
Julia said that taking the initial step is often the hardest step for people, especially men, who often bottle up how they’re feeling.
At the Harrogate Hub, we’re also seeing younger people suffering from loneliness too.
Since, we opened in January, we’ve had people of all ages, from 18 to 90, coming through our doors.
Caroline Hurren, who is a pastoral carer at the Harrogate Hub, said: “Some people walk in before we’re even officially open and then they stay for the entire time. You wonder how long they’d stay if we didn’t have to close.
Several regulars have said it’s an absolute luxury to have a conversation, not just to be listened to, but to have a laugh as well. We’re not just meeting needs, we’re offering friendship.”
Not only is loneliness an often-overlooked issue, it is classified as a serious health issue.
“Chronic loneliness is cutting lives short, and the problem is growing”, said RCGP chair Professor Stokes- Lampard in her opening speech at the college’s annual conference.
Being lonely is worse for you than obesity and is as bad as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In the speech she gave in Liverpool at the beginning of last month, she called on the four governments of the UK to increase funding for general practice in order to give GPs ‘time to care’.
Health-care professionals are starting to signpost people to the Hub, because we are not time limited. We can provide long-term support, walking alongside people for as long as they need it and welcoming them into community.
Laura Alcock-Ferguson, Executive Director of the Campaign to End Loneliness, fully supports the call for GPs needing time to care. She said: “Our recent research with the LSE found that for every £1 spent on tackling loneliness, up to £3 can be saved in health costs – and GPs can play a huge part in identifying the older people who need help. We want all GPs to be able to spot the signs of loneliness, and would encourage GP surgeries – where possible – to link up with local services that tackle loneliness.
“We also need commissioners to fund the early interventions and services that will stop lonely people needing to go see their GPs in the first place. The health and economic benefits for tackling loneliness in older people are clear. Now, we need action.”
One way to help prevent this, according to Supporting Older People, is simple human contact.
Julia said: “It’s having that human voice to break up the monotony of the day. I have people who say all they do is stare at the same four walls every day. Having someone there breaks up their day, gives them a new face and a new aspect.”
The charity has around 70 volunteers. Many of them are matched as home-visitors to go to people’s homes and have a chat with them once a week.
They also host a range of activities from ‘tea and talk’, ‘singing group’ to frequent outings.
Young or old, anyone can feel lonely or isolated and it’s not a nice feeling at all. It can often engulf your life without even realising it; not to mention the impact it has on your health.
If you’re feeling lonely, why not pop in and see us at Harrogate Hub. Likewise, you can contact Supporting Older People.
Both charities are also looking for more volunteers. With the end of the year approaching, maybe you could make it your new year’s resolution to help combat loneliness in our town.
Written by Rachel Williams
Edited by Ella Green
This is Laurel, “Our ray of sunshine at the Hub”, as Anne describes her. “She has an infectious laugh and she always puts a smile on your face!”
Laurel and Anne are both pastoral carers at the Hub. Every week, Laurel also brings us lovely flowers, which brighten up the place and make it feel like home for our visitors.
I had a chat with Laurel about her experience at the Hub. (And you can check out Anne’s story here.)
How did you get involved in the work of the Hub?
Jo-Ann came to our church and spoke about the Harrogate Hub. I had a heart for this kind of thing. I used to run another ministry, giving out food, furniture, clothes and books. And I wanted to get involved in something similar. I also had previous experience of pastoral care from church.
What did you learn from the pastoral care training course?
So many things stood out, especially the prayer, and learning how we relate to people. I learnt that we show how much we care for people mostly by listening. The course taught me to listen more. When you’re a mum, you sometimes butt in when your children are talking! But it taught me to take note and listen, to assess the situation and to make the person feel at ease.
Why do you think Harrogate needs a Hub?
I think there are a lot of lonely people about in Harrogate. There’s a veneer. People think it’s a rich place, but there’s a lot of poverty here. I see it at the foodbank.
What kinds of needs have you seen since volunteering at the Hub?
There’s a common denominator. There’s a need to be listened to and loved.
What would you say to someone who was considering visiting the Hub?
I would say ‘Come in! It’s warm. It’s cosy. And most of all, we’re here for you.’
Interview by Ella Green
We have an exciting announcement to make – we now have one of our first business partners!
Some of you may have already heard about our 20:20 campaign. We launched this campaign in June to encourage the local community to invest in our work and to join us in our vision. As part of this campaign, we are looking for 20 local businesses to give £2000 yearly and Heal is one of the first businesses to partner with us.
Heal is a medical-based beauty spa in Harrogate’s Montpellier Quarter, founded by Oliver Highland-Edmonds, who is also Heal’s Senior Podiatrist. Having worked with the NHS for ten years, Oliver decided to make the move into private practice. “People enjoy beauty treatments, but medical care is very functional and utilitarian. People often don’t turn up to appointments. But there’s no reason why medical care has to be this way.”
Oliver has spent the last two years merging these two areas together. Heal offers a unique blend of medical treatments and beauty therapies, all under one roof. Heal maintains the highest clinical standards and uses evidence based-practice, but also provides a personal, more luxurious touch, providing a pleasurable experience for clients.
Heal is now partnering with the Harrogate Hub and raising funds to support our work. Heal is already planning an amazing fundraising project, so watch this space!
Heal shares the Harrogate Hub’s holistic approach to wellbeing, and like the Hub, the business also aims to make a difference in the community. “We don’t want to be another company that just takes from community”, explains Oliver.
Heal are a living wage employer, they invest in the education of their employees, they give back to their clients through a devotee scheme, and they use ethical, environmentally-friendly products.
This Autumn, Oliver is planning a project to provide free hair and foot care for homeless people in Harrogate. The Hub is facilitating this through linking Heal with one of our church partners. We’ll be sharing more about this soon.
We’re really looking forward to working with Heal, along with other businesses that share our heart to show love to our community. We’re uniting businesses, charities, churches and individuals to work together, so we can make Harrogate a healthier, happier, more caring community.
If you work for or run a local business and would like to find out how your business could get involved, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.
Written by Ella Green
Anne’s journey with the Hub all started with some curtains! And now she volunteers with us as a pastoral carer. This is her story…
I’d got some long-standing health issues, so I couldn’t go back to my work in hospitality, which involved lots of running about on my feet. I was finding it really hard not working. I don’t like sitting about doing nothing, but I felt like I couldn’t do volunteering. I can’t sit down for too long because of my back. I felt like my life was slipping away and I couldn’t do anything with it.
One day I’d been to the curtain shop over the road from the Hub and I just walked past the Hub and went in to find out what it was about. After that, I had a chat with Jo-Ann, gave her my details and I got a call verifying that I could start the pastoral care training course, and that was it! The rest is history.
I’d already done a counselling course, up to level 3. And when I worked in hospitality, I learnt a lot about confidentiality. It’s amazing, working on a bar, how many people tell you things! I heard so many stories. Sometimes people would come back and say thank you to me, “You’re a really good listener.”
I found the Hub’s pastoral training course really enjoyable. It taught me about the importance of listening. We can all hear, but we don’t always listen.
I think the Hub is very worthwhile. There are a lot of people who need help and direction, and there are a lot of lonely people. We need to show them they’re not alone by showing them kindness and compassion. Anyone can come into the Hub and they’re treated with the same equality, respect and care.
We’re showing people God’s love. We’re not just paying lip service. We’re actually doing something. That’s what Jesus was preaching when he walked on the earth. It’s about showing compassion in everyday life.
Interview by Ella Green
This week, I got to hear from Caroline. She moved to Harrogate with her husband 33 years ago and has been a pastoral carer at the Hub since we first opened. I had a chat with her and found out what makes her pastoral heart tick!
How did you get involved with the Hub? And why were you interested in volunteering with us?
I think it was probably through my husband Tim – he knows everything that’s going on! He works at St Peter’s in the centre of town. We first met at Lee Abbey Christian conference centre and since then, we’ve always been interested in how churches can work together. Great blessings come from working together and praying with Christians from across denominations. We felt it was the way ahead. The thing I find very encouraging about the Hub is seeing people from different churches in Harrogate meet each other – sometimes they meet people from churches they didn’t even know existed! It’s creating fellowship.
What has been your experience of volunteering at the Hub so far?
We’ve already had quite a few people come in.
Some people walk in before we’re even officially open and then they stay for the entire time. You wonder how long they’d stay if we didn’t have to close.
Several regulars have said it’s an absolute luxury to have a conversation, not just to be listened to, but to have a laugh as well. We’re not just meeting needs, we’re offering friendship.
Have you had experience of pastoral care before?
Yes I used to have a ministry in counselling. My past experience has helped me. I feel prepared for working here. The thing I love is simply being there for someone and giving them the gift of my attention. Compassion is very rewarding.
Interview by Ella Green
Meet Lynda and Andrew! They attend different churches in Harrogate and lead very different lives. But they do have a few things in common… They are both pastoral carers at the Hub. They finished their pastoral training course at the end of March and since then they’ve been volunteering with us.
“We’ve been able to apply what we were taught and we’ve already seen change in the individuals who come in”, explains Andrew. “Some people come into the Hub regularly and it’s great to see the impact it’s making on their lives.” Lynda says,
“I’ve seen the outward appearance of a person change. And they seem brighter, even though they might still be struggling.”
Lynda is experienced in encouraging people in their everyday lives; she runs Women of Faith Today, a programme that equips women and releases them to reach their full potential through training and Christian fellowship. “Helping at the Hub is another way that I can give back to the community, it’s a platform to reach out to more people.”
Andrew got involved in the work of the Hub after hearing a talk by Jo-Ann. “It’s been a complete change from my normal environment, working in retail. I’m used to listening to customers, but this is a different kind of listening.”
Andrew and Lynda, and the other pastoral carers have had time to get to know each other during quieter days at the Hub. Andrew says they’ve really been able to use this time to build relationships. “This means we can support each other.”
“Andrew is a lovely brother to work with”, says Lynda, “He’s an encourager, a very honest human. What you see is what you get. We believe in the same God and when people come in through the doors they can sense that spirit of unity and friendship.”
“We have a laugh”, says Andrew. “Lynda has a really uplifting humour, it’s infectious. The people who come in really benefit from talking to her.”
During their pastoral training, Lynda and Andrew had the chance to meet people from different churches across Harrogate. “We’re building the kingdom together.” explains Lynda. “It’s like that verse, ‘As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples…’ And that is how people will see the Hub. They will know us by our love.”
Written by Ella Green
“I come to the Hub mainly for the company, to get out of the house and talk things through. It’s good getting to know other people. It was a bit nerve-wrecking coming in the first time, but it’s helped my mood and boosted my confidence. It’s helped me a lot.”
We want to help many more people like Lucy. Can you join with us to make Harrogate a more caring community? Here’s some super simple ways you can help:
1. Help us distribute our posters.
We have LOTS and lots of new snazzy posters! Could you ask to put one in your workplace, your local supermarket community board, GP surgery, or hairdressers? We also have leaflets and bookmarks if you need something a little smaller. Help us spread the word. We want everyone to know there’s somewhere to turn. We’re here to listen and support anyone who is struggling in Harrogate.
2. Invite your friends to follow us on facebook, instagram or twitter.
It only takes a few clicks!
3. Invite us to speak at your church or community group.
We love to share about our work with the community.
Are you a good listener? Do you like cleaning? Perhaps you have experience in fundraising? Or maybe you could help in some other way. Check out our volunteering roles here.
If you are someone who prays, please join with us in praying for our town; for those who are suffering in poverty, isolation, and addiction. You can join us for prayer meetings at the Hub on Thursdays, 12.00-1.00pm.
The Harrogate Hub is all about restoring and building community. We’re looking for people who want to invest in our community. That’s why we’ve launched our 20:20 campaign. We’re seeking:
20 local churches to give £1000 yearly
20 local businesses to give £2000 yearly
20 x 20 individuals to give £10 monthly
20 Trust funds to support specific projects
Thank you to everyone who is already part of making our vision a reality. We love working together with you to show love to our Harrogate community.