L-R): Claire Fisher Encompass CEO, Emily Cooper (Women First and Spark Project practitioner), Emma Bass (Spark project practitioner) and Rhiannon Churchill (Women First service lead) launch the Spark Project to help women in North Devon - Credit: Encompass

New North Devon drop in for women in need

Joseph Bulmer

A new drop in service has opened in Barnstaple for women struggling with domestic violence, addiction, mental health or isolation but feel unable to get the help they need.

The Spark Project is running an informal weekly drop-in at The Voice meeting room next to Barnstaple Bus Station every Tuesday from 2 to 4pm.

It is open to any women who are having problems and feeling lost, confused or vulnerable and need support to escape the situation they are in.

The service is part of the Women First project run by Encompass Southwest and aims to help and support women who may be at risk of violence or abuse, or have suffered trauma in the past, as well as those living with mental health issues, addiction problems or simply people that feel isolated or vulnerable.

The weekly group meetings have just started and invite women to just drop in for a safe space where they can meet, chat, have a drink or a cake and forget the outside world for a time.

Organisers want those attending to decide how the sessions will be used, but it is hoped in time to hold workshops, creative and craft sessions, talks, watch a movie, arrange visits from therapists or beauticians – or anything else the people there would like to do.

(L-R): The Spark Project team, Rhiannon Churchill (Women First service lead), Emma Bass (Spark project practitioner), Emily Cooper (Women First and Spark Project practitioner) and Claire Fisher Encompass CEO, are ready to help local women in need at weekly drop-in sessions at The Voice in Barnstaple - Credit: Encompass
(L-R): The Spark Project team, Rhiannon Churchill (Women First service lead), Emma Bass (Spark project practitioner), Emily Cooper (Women First and Spark Project practitioner) and Claire Fisher Encompass CEO, are ready to help local women in need at weekly drop-in sessions at The Voice in Barnstaple - Credit: Encompass

Emma Bass from Women First said the Spark Project was a no-pressure outreach service designed to offer support as well as advice plus help accessing local services such as health or housing, if needed.

She said: “We're aiming to create a safe space for women, which feels welcoming and inclusive, non-judgemental, yet honest. The Spark Project drop in is for women who are struggling and are potentially marginalised from society.

“We are keen to encourage collaborative working and peer support, which will hopefully increase confidence, and empower individuals to have a voice.

“I believe it's important to remember that anyone has the potential to fall victim to abuse, isolation, ill or mental health or addiction. When individuals are struggling they often feel shame and are marginalised for making ‘bad decisions’ when in fact those situations are consequences of traumatic experiences which are out of their control.”

The project has been developed as a partnership with Colab Exeter’s Resilient Women project and Trevi Women's Centre in Plymouth.

The Encompass Women First project offers ongoing help and support for women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The Spark Project is very keen to hear from any local practitioners who would be willing to volunteer their time to run a session or a workshop, such as yoga, creative writing or other arts and crafts, movement, singing or self-defence.

They would also like to hear from any therapist or beauticians willing to go along and offer services such as hairstyling, beauty or complementary therapies. Anyone who can help is asked to get in touch by emailing womenfirst@bpag-encompass.org.uk There is also an Instagram page @womenfirstproject plus regular updates on the Encompass Southwest Facebook page.

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