The first thing you see when you look at WayfinderWoman’s website is: “ We’re here to help at The WayfinderWoman Trust. Run by women, for women we help those who are feeling anxious and uncertain about themselves or their future. By building their self-confidence and skills they then are able to challenge any barriers that face them in finding a better life.”
This is our ethos as it was ten years ago when Laura Murphy first had the idea which became the Eastbourne based charity WayfinderWoman.
It all started with Laura, offering a very low-cost modular programme for women picking up on their expressed anxieties and needs. Yet even though their eyes sparkled when she described the programme none took part. It took a while to realise that the women who needed help didn’t have the confidence or the self-belief to invest in themselves. Time they could possibly make but money now that was a different matter. To spend money on themselves when they put others ahead of them was a step too far.
Soon she set up the Wayfinder Club as a monthly get together for women to talk about anything they wanted. To get the support of their peers and to find solutions together.
The whole thing snowballed from there. Soon Wayfinder was set up as an ‘unincorporated association’ a mechanism where grants could be bid for so that courses, workshops and other activities could be run free of charge. After three months the first National Lottery grant was awarded, and we have had grants every year since then.
WayfinderWoman is now a registered charity and since we started as that loose unincorporated association, we have helped close to 900 women. Pretty good going I’d say for any organisation, not the least of which is that we are all volunteers.
Not surprisingly we have kept busy during the last year with meetings and workshops moved online, communicating through Zoom has been a learning experience! We have had various online courses and regular Zoom coffee mornings which have attracted women from as far afield as Australia and Canada, although most of our regulars are local to the Eastbourne area.
I first got involved by volunteering to be part of the ‘Women of Eastbourne’ project. WayfinderWoman received £79,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in partnership with Eastbourne Borough Council to set up this exciting project; researched by women of today to reveal the hidden women of Eastbourne’s past. When these long-forgotten lives were found out about by our volunteers, there was an exhibition in the town and a trip to London to see the new suffragette statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. We then had a guided tour around the Women’s Library at UCL, with its own suffrage exhibition. Volunteers continue to give talks to women’s groups about ‘Women of Eastbourne’ throughout East Sussex although latterly these have been online.
At the beginning of the first lockdown there was much discussion about what we could do to mark and record this time of pandemic. It was agreed to produce a book that would be compilation of women’s lockdown experiences making it a keepsake, an historical document and an heirloom for generations to come. Over 100 responded with their stories, poems, artwork and even a play. Considerable fund raising has been taking place including several bumper raffles and the Magnificent Seven walk around Princes Park lake. With a generous donation given by the girls from the late Moira House School we have now reached our target and planning to publish our “Women in Lockdown” book some time soon.
International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021 was truly an international day for WayfinderWoman. We could not travel so we brought the world to us with the amazing Katie Day organising brilliant speakers talking about the challenge they chose to take on. Over the three-hour seminar we heard first from Baroness Uddin, activist in the House of Lords, followed by eight equally inspiring women from across the globe. You can now listen to the recording which is on our YouTube channel.
We have several exciting projects planned, including publishing our ‘Women in Lockdown book’, an Eastbourne to Hastings sponsored walk and celebrations for our 10th anniversary. What is most important is that we want to carry on supporting women.
Although Covid struck us all hard and we know that for many that hardship remains. We are here to support any women who ask. If we can help you come to our drop-in centre, the Hub, in St Leonards Rd, or arrange an online chat, a phone call, an email or a zoom link up. Whatever the need, we will help you or signpost you to someone who can. So get in touch or spread the word if help is needed or if you feel inspired join us as a volunteer. See our website to find out more: www.WayfinderWoman.com – after ten years your sisterhood is ready and waiting.
From Helen Warren
12 May 2021