Social action award for project with Baptist roots
The Cinnamon Project Lab recognition for Emerge, which trains Christian volunteers to support young people attending Accident and Emergency departments as a result of self-harm or attempted suicide, could see it replicated across the country
An initiative which originated in a Baptist church is one of two winners of a competition seeking innovative, community-led social action projects that are making a difference to the health and wellbeing of their communities.
Surrey-based Emerge enables trained, Christian volunteers to support young people attending Accident and Emergency departments as a result of self-harm or attempted suicide. It was created in 2016 by Joy Wright (pictured, centre), at the time a member of the youth team at Guildford Baptist Church. The church supported Joy as she pursued the idea, made connections and began to form the organisation.
On Tuesday night Emerge was a joint winner of this year's Cinnamon Project Lab 2019 competition, alongside the Dorset-based Truth Be Told, a set of storytelling sessions for intergenerational groups.
Both winning projects will each receive a development grant of £30,000, plus entry onto the two-year Cinnamon Project Incubator. The programme is designed specifically to help church-led social action projects develop strong governance, robust leadership and the knowledge and expertise they need to replicate their work.
'It’s a huge honour,' said Joy. 'We actually applied for Project Lab in 2017 and didn’t get through, but the process then helped us to change and improve what we were doing, so it’s incredible to come back and win.'
The Baptist Times spoke to Joy to find out a little more about Emerge.
How did Emerge come about? What was the thinking behind it?
When I was 14, I wanted to die, and I'd felt that way for a really long time. Since I was 12 I'd been stopping myself from eating properly, and by the age of 16, I was resorting to self-harm to cope with my feelings, the scars of which I still bear today. I'm here today because of one of my youth workers. She believed in me when I couldn't believe in myself. She listened to me, loved me, prayed for me, and held onto hope for my life when I'd totally lost sight of it. She inspired me to trust in God in the midst of my brokenness. It's because of her that is was able to begin my journey from hopelessness, towards hope.
Fast-forward 20 years and I was the youth worker, in a hospital supporting Amy, one of my young people who was in A&E because she was suicidal. I was standing in a side room with two doctors and Amy's dad. The doctors were saying to Amy that she needed to stay in hospital another night and she was freaking out about that. They asked her to please stay, she refused, and her dad just looked desolately down at the floor. It was clear we'd reached a stalemate so I suggested we take five.
As the other adults left the room, Amy just turned to me and crumpled into my arms in tears. We made our way to the floor like that and she just cried as I held her. After a bit, I gently explained to her why she needed to trust the doctors and stay in hospital that night. And she stayed in hospital that night.
Young people's mental health is now recognised as being a national crisis. And that night, Amy, she was my inspiration for Emerge Advocacy.
What has happened since? What has been its impact? How many people have been trained?
In 2016, with the support of my church (Guildford Baptist Church), I developed a partnership with my local hospital (Royal Surrey County Hospital) so that myself, and a couple of volunteers who I had recruited and trained, could go into A&E during the evening in search of young people like Amy who were coming through their hospital doors because of self-harm or attempted suicide. That was just under three years ago, and in that time, Emerge has supported over 350 young people like Amy.
We now have three members of staff and a team of 16 specially trained volunteers, from churches across Guildford, going into hospital six nights a week until 11pm, and providing follow up support during the day.
Emerge’s service has been amazingly well received within the hospital. We were honoured to be finalists in the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ category in hospital’s annual awards in 2017, and winners of the Patient’s Choice award in the same event in 2018 where we were nominated by a young person who, in her written nomination said that she believed that Emerge had saved her life on more than one occasion. In 2019, the hospital also nominated Emerge for the Parliamentary Awards for Services to Volunteering.
We ask all the young people we support to give us feedback via text after we’ve supported them.
One young person said:
They are a very helpful team. They are always there for you and everyone should try Emerge. I got listened to and also got respected. Emerge is such a helpful group it doesn’t matter that it’s a Christian charity because faith isn’t pushed on you. Faith may pop up but it would probably be in the way of hope or how God is loving and has a forgiving heart. The Emerge team are so nice and they are so supportive and also will make you feel good about yourself.
And a parent said:
Your youth worker Bethany was like an Angel. She stayed with my daughter when I took a break. I would really like my daughter to have follow up support from Emerge until she can get some counselling. Again, thank you for all that Emerge do. I am very grateful.
We have replicated once already and have a waiting list of hospitals whose senior leaders have said that they need an Emerge Project in their A&E department too. In order to meet this demand, we need to connect with local churches, and this is where Cinnamon comes in!
What are your thoughts on reaching (and winning!) the Cinnamon Project Lab Final? What do you hope for next?
We were hugely excited to reach the final, it was humbling to be selected from amongst so many other worthy projects. To be chosen as one of two winners on the night, well, it’s hard to put that into words, but it’s a real game changer for us as an organisation. It’s the whole package, the funding, the exposure, the connections, the wealth of experience and skills within Cinnamon which we’ll benefit from.
It’s our vision that, one day, every hospital in the UK will have volunteers from their local church running an Emerge project in their A&E so that young people across our nation have someone to be their Voice of Hope when they need it the most.
The metaphor we use for our work is the Kinstugi bowl. It’s an ancient Japanese practise, whereby an ordinary bowl which has been dropped and broken, is not swept aside and thrown away, but instead, is pieced back together with liquid gold. The result is that something which was once totally broken is restored, made whole. It is more valuable, stronger, and more beautiful that ever before. The brokenness is nothing to be ashamed of. It becomes a story of Hope.
This is our story, and this is what we do at Emerge.
Find out more about Emerge here
Do you have a view? Share your thoughts via our letters' page.