I am still in shock – I still cannot believe Mums & Families UK is the winner of the Families Included Challenge Prize. The organisation will receive £10,000 to further develop and expand on the work we have been doing over the past few months, with our immediate plans to expand our programme to Rayleigh and Chelmsford and that’s just for starters! We were asked by so many people on the awards event night whether we thought we were going to win, or if it was a complete shock. We believed we could win; we tried to maintain an element of self-belief but there were times that belief waned when we acknowledged the amazing other finalists and as cliché as it sounds, every finalist in that room were worthy winners. To win it, is the most amazing accolade for the work we do with so many families and the fact that we can now reach even more is just amazing.
Throughout the past year there have been amazing highs but at the same time it has been hard. When I have been tired or run down, the shadows of anxiety and depression can sometimes feel like they are creeping in again, but I tell them to do one (well I’m not quite as polite as that, but I’m sure you can fill in the blanks), and yes there have been many times when I have thought of giving up.
Up until recently, and really recently, I had so much self-doubt and was constantly questioning, can I really do this? Can I really make a difference? The answer to that has been yes, but it’s a bigger YES because I now have a team of trustees who believe in what we are doing as much as I do, are so unbelievably supportive becoming great friends and without which we never would have got as far as we have. We have helped nearly 50 families and through testimonials and feedback we have received, we know we have already saved lives - which to me is just astonishing and so very humbling! As we continue to grow, being part of the challenge prized has resulted in being contacted by investors wanting to invest in us and we have leaders within Essex County Council really interested in what we are doing and have expressed an interest in being involved in the development and expansion of Mums & Families UK across Essex. Our programme is something that hasn’t been done before- in the words of the Chairman’s Announcement & Communications at Essex County Council’s Full Meeting last week- we have written and developed a “ground-breaking peer support programme…that addresses the issue of loneliness and isolation amongst mums and families with children aged 0-5”. As such, Mums and Families UK can now say that we offer a programme that is not only unique in concept and content, but that it is now also a programme that is AWARD WINNING!
I have to pinch myself when I think about how far I have come personally and how far Mums & Families UK has come as an organisation. Only two years ago I was literally on my knees battling (and it did feel like a constant battle) and fighting serious postnatal mental illness. Part of the poem I wrote in my first blog said: “I will not hide in the shadows or submit to pain and shame, as after all I battled through and got my life back again!” No matter how hard life gets – NEVER GIVE UP! I wanted to and nearly did, but I got through it, eventually the darkness subsided and I could see sunshine in my life again!
My message to anyone who is going through any kind of challenge, battle or storm, never EVER give up! There really is light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes when you reach that light, it’s so bright you have no choice but to share it with others, and that’s exactly what Mums & Families UK intend to do.