The Magdalene Group

East of England

The Magdalene Group

Based in Norwich, The Magdalene Group’s frontline projects prevent and raise awareness of sexual exploitation, trafficking and coercion. Our grant of £75,000 over three years funds Doorway, one of their four main programmes, which supports women involved in sex work and empowers them to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Services Co-ordinator Jonna Barry recalls one story that drives home the need for The Magdalene Group’s work in the Norwich community:

“There was one woman who had been through absolute trauma. She went off the radar, then reappeared eight months later. She was grey when she walked in, and she said: ‘I’m so hungry and I’m so dirty, I don’t know whether to eat or bath first.’ So we got her a meal and she had a shower, and it was so lovely when I walked past the door, she’d eaten and washed – basic things in life – and a volunteer was brushing her hair. And the look of comfort and being nurtured on her face was just beautiful. It can sound cheesy, but actually when you’re seeing it, that makes all the difference.”

Suzi Heybourne, Chief Executive of The Magdalene Group, says this vital service might not exist if not for the charity’s grant from Lloyds Bank Foundation:

“It’s the only funding we have for Doorway, so it’s hugely important. Without it we wouldn’t be doing what we do. It gives us peace of mind that we’ve got it sorted for three years.”

The length of the grant has helped The Magdalene Group to invest in staff who will be part of the charity over the coming years. Suzi explains:

“You put all the training into a staff member and they become good at what they do, so you need funding to be able to keep them with you. Staff like Jonna need to be confident engaging with women, they need to know the criminal justice system, housing services, safeguarding… You need a certain level of commitment from a funder to make all that training worthwhile. The alternative just isn’t good business sense.”

The charity has also been supported by their Grant Manager, Frances Warwick, to access some of the developmental support offered by Lloyds Bank Foundation. Frances says:

“Suzi recognised that The Magdalene Group could attract more funding if they could demonstrate the quality of their intervention, so they were keen to undertake PQASSO accreditation – but they lacked the funds to pursue it. It was great that we could offer it through our developmental support, helping them realise their goals and stand in a stronger position going forwards.”

Jonna says her job is tough but rewarding:

“Every day is different. We tend to deal with a lot of crises, and it’s tough getting other services to react in the same way that we do. We respond quicker and differently – there’s a lot less red tape and box ticking with our organisation than with larger ones. That’s because we’re very aware that if somebody comes in requesting help, you need to help them at that time, because the next day their priorities might have changed. We’re very dynamic and we always respond as best we can.”

Suzi adds:

“I think in the voluntary sector, in small grassroots organisations like ours, we do it because we want to. There’s a passion behind it, and a real strength of feeling that you really want to help women improve their life opportunities. Even when the women give up on themselves, we don’t want to do that. We want to continue and continue.”