The Holly Project, YMCA Wellington and District
The Holly Project is a free, independent support service for survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and their families, run by CSE survivors. It was borne out of need, and the vision of local CSE survivors. They felt there was not a safe place for survivors or their families to go to or people they could talk to who truly understood their experiences – no qualification could offer more than lived experience. The Holly Project offers that support and advice from people who have experienced the trauma and impact of CSE.
The Holly Project aims to help survivors rebuild their lives and offer hope for the future, with a focus on support, health and emotional wellbeing. The service offers run drop in sessions 5 days a week to allow survivors and their families the chance to talk to other survivors and provide direct access to services. Waiting times for other specialist counselling services were around 12 months+, however this project can offer counselling with no waiting, and has also set up a direct access route with the local sexual health service so that lengthy waiting times are avoided and alternative access to buildings can be arranged where necessary. There are also links to women-only sessions with a local Boxing Academy, allowing women to channel any anger in a constructive way and to build confidence, health and wellbeing. The project can also signpost service users to the Freedom Programme which is run by YMCA Wellington. The Holly Project has been funded for two years by Telford and Wrekin Council, following a successful six month pilot in 2018. The project is currently working with around 40 individuals aged 18+.
The project takes its name from local survivor and author Holly Archer, who successfully campaigned for an independent inquiry to be held in the Borough.