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Sunday 2 June 2013

If Freedom was a song

Last week I arrived in the office and found a letter tucked under my keyboard with a sticky note attached which read 'Amos, read this and let's talk. A'. I made a cup of tea, switched on my computer (which, as most NHS employees will sympathise with, takes a while to boot-up) and opened the envelope. 

The letter was written in blue biro on lined paper, the handwriting was feminine; looping l's and curling c's. It began 'How the freedom project helped me and my son'. It told the story of a woman who had suffered domestic violence, deprivation and starvation, mental torture and sexual abuse and had managed, with the help of something called the Freedom Project, to wrestle her life back from her abuser.

I spoke with Andrew, Chair of BSC and author of the sticky note attched to the letter. He'd been to visit the Freedom Project and told me how profoundly moved he had been and how a woman had given him the letter and told him to use her story. He encouraged me to go and see the project and find ways to support them.

I called Jacky who runs the project; we agreed to meet on a Friday morning.

I wasn't sure I had the correct address when I arrived at the Fredom Project; a small, post-war house on the Allenscroft Road. I'm not sure what I expected. I knocked tentatively on the door and waited. Jacky threw open the door and bustled me inside smiling widely and shaking my hand. 

I noticed the bright murals on the walls, the toys piled up in boxes, the still warm kettle and shabby but spotlessly clean floors that must have been paced upon over and over. Jacky launched in to a description of what the Freedom Project did everyday. She told me her own story of abuse, of courage and conviction. She told me about the women who entered this little home and the journeys they travelled. She beamed as she spoke and I wanted to hug her because women like Jacky radiate beauty and goodness. 

The Freedom Project supports women who have suffered domestic abuse. They understand that abuse comes in many forms and doesn't always leave bruises you can see. Their clients come from different backgrounds and have different needs. They are supported to recognise abuse, they are empowered to change their lives and regain confidence. They find freedom here I suppose, in this little house on a council estate in South Birmingham.

As we talked Jacky waved people passing by the window. She's a part of this community, a vital part and she's not going anywhere. Like many smaller organisations in this city, the Freedom Project needs support from bigger organisations like ours. The Freedom Project is fuelled by passion but requires nurturing to flourish. As commissioners, I believe it's our job to do that nurturing.

As I was leaving, Jacky pressed a book of poetry in to my hand, written by their clients. This was an annual leave day for me and I was going away with friends for the weekend. I left Jacky and took the book in to a coffee shop in Selly Oak as I waited for my brother to arrive. I flipped through the pages and found a poem called 'If freedom were...'

If freedom was a song
it would be lyrics from
Joan Armatrading
Tracey Chapman
Helen Reddy
All rolled in to one
It would be sung with a passion
From deep down inside
Each word would give a feeling
Of hunger and pride
We'd sing it out loud, in our houses, on the streets
And hope that cour collective voices would reach
All of you out there so you'd all hear the message
We are women, we are strong and don't ever forget it.

amos image Amos Mallard, Partnership Facilitator.