Caritas Anchor House

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'Breathing Space' at Abbotswick provides homeless residents with a new outlook in life

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'Breathing Space' at Abbotswick provides homeless residents with a new outlook in life

5th October 2011

Anchor House staff and residents with the nuns at Abbotswick

Finding solitude and peace amongst the chaos of  their lives have proven to be a life changing experience for 11 homeless residents at Anchor House.

The group stayed at a country house set amongst the beautiful grounds of Abbotswick, Essex on Wednesday 14th September, as part of a 3-day spiritual retreat with Support Planning Co-ordinator, Eve O’ Keefe  and Director, Keith Fernett.

The client group at Anchor House are people who have been marginalised within society; having experienced extreme levels of trauma and stress.  As a consequence they have been left mistrusting society in general. The Abbotswick experience aims to help change people’s ways of thinking and help them resolve individual issues. 

Eve O’Keefe said it was the third time residents had the opportunity to visit Abbotswick and undertake the ‘Breathing Space’ programme, which taught residents about the importance of mindfulness and the space needed to discover things about themselves; their road to personal development and their goals.

 “The ‘Breathing Space’ programme provides both the peace and solitude needed to allow people to explore the complex inner depths of their life and find the inner strength to deal with issues,” Eve said.

“Through this process of giving our residents a breathing space they discover things about themselves that they would like to change which is extremely empowering and for some they do gain the confidence to set achievable goals to work towards achieving a better life.

“They really understood the concept of mindfulness and totally embraced the meditation and the relaxation sessions.  They really wanted to benefit from the experience.  In fact one resident told me afterwards that the experience of mediation had been better than any ‘high’ you could get from taking drugs.”

Eve said the residents made incredible progress. They not only recognised their own issues, but were prepared to come up with their own solutions, which was a big breakthrough. 

“People were starting to value themselves and to believe they could set their own goals and perhaps more importantly, believe they could achieve those goals with hard work and determination,” she said.

Eve said that a resident sent her a letter after arriving back to Anchor House. It said: “Abbotswick was the biggest experience in my whole life.  The time I spent there was amazing in all the ways, starting with meditation, relaxation, silent walks and finishing with the home made gorgeous food, amazing countryside views... I found the harmony and peace between my body and soul.  I felt so good emotionally and spiritually. I called the place Paradise.”

Another resident wrote: “It amazes me how a beautiful sunny day or a different environment can change and alter the mood one feels. Beautiful and tranquil surroundings can fuel the mind... It was a full moon tonight and I don’t never normally notice things like that.  I seem to be observing things more.  Don’t feel closed in, claustrophobic.”

Another said: “Everybody needs a hug.  To me a hug is a sign of love... I’ve always wanted to learn how to relax and meditate and I have had an introduction and insight into it... I’m at constant war with myself but because of Abbotswick I am working to resolve this. By being away from the normality, the noise and confusion, I’ve had the chance to study myself and others and I know there are things about me I need to change and this programme ‘Breathing Space’ has given me the tools to be able to do this.”

For more information about the Abbotswick ‘Breathing Space’ programme contact Eve O’Keefe, Anchor House Support Planning Co-ordinator, 0207 476 6062.

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