In 2017, Azalea is celebrating an amazing decade working with women caught in sexual exploitation.
In 2007, a group of Luton churches looked at helping women caught in sexual exploitation. They prayed, contacted the local authorities, and registered a charity. The aim was to show love and practical care to women with very low self-esteem, who were trapped in poverty and violent relationships.
A team of volunteers was trained. They opened a Drop-in and began Street Outreach, offering home-made cakes, pastoral support and links to other agencies.
Here’s what happened since…
In that time, Azalea opened its own dedicated Drop-in and grew its staff team from 1 to 6 (many of those part-time).
In 2017, we celebrate the new post of a full-time Intervention Exit Officer, supporting women to totally break free from sexual exploitation.
What the women say
“My life had hit a crucial turning point and I was scared. I was harming myself with using so many drugs and taking chances to get the money to finance it. Then one night at the Drop-in, things seemed to drop into place and for the first time in years I felt free. Free enough to feel love and gratitude, thanks to the help and belief that you all gave me.”
“I moved to Luton due to domestic violence elsewhere. I was soon brought by what I believe to be God to Azalea, and it became my little ‘adopted family’. Everything seems to be working out. I have struggled and been through some awful ordeals, but with faith, love and an open heart, I am overcoming my fear.”
“I’m so glad I got introduced to Azalea because they have helped me so much in so many ways.”
“I thank Azalea from the bottom of my heart for giving me a good birthday when I had no one, and being there when I need someone to talk to.”
“It’s amazing. My life has turned from being hurt, treated like dirt. Azalea showered me with dignity and showed me the way I should be treated. They have guided me and never gave up on me. I love it because I am not judged for my past.”
The Azalea 10:10 Challenge
Take part in any or all of these to mark a decade of Azalea!
Do keep us informed about how you’re joining in.
1. Commit to praying for Azalea for 10 minutes a day/week
2. Come to our 10th Birthday Party on Sunday 11th June (see above for details)
3. Run or walk a 10K - details here
4. Give 10 items of food
5. Share 10 of our Facebook posts
6. Set up a Standing Order for £10 to Azalea
7. Take the £10 challenge
(On you own or in a group put £10 in the kitty and use it to buy resources, then see how much you can grow your £10. E.g. bring and buy sale, bake sale, car treasure hunt, car wash, tuck shop, home made cards, garden plants).
8. Donate 10 items of clothing or gifts
9. Tell 10 people about Azalea or Get 10 people to join the Prayer Net.
A Quick History of Azalea
1989: Members of Luton Christian Fellowship go out with police around red light area, offering women pastoral care and support.
Early 2007: A group forms to pray and discuss how churches can respond to women caught in sexual exploitation in Luton. The charity Dignity is founded.
October 2007: First Training Course and Volunteer Recruitment
January 2008: Our Drop-in opens at High Town Methodist Church.
October 2008: Following an increase in donations, we buy a car and start street outreach
34 women connect with Dignity in its first year.
December 2009 – First Christmas party for women involved in sexual exploitation.
2010 – Dignity changes its name to Azalea
June 2011: Azalea opens its new dedicated Drop-in facility, set up to be like a home. Women can access a shower, laundry facilities, prayer space, kitchen and lounge area. (show pic)
2011: Daytime Drop-in launches on Wednesdays.
2012: ‘Rebuilt’ Alpha course begins as part of Wednesday Drop-in.
2015 - Azalea opens its Oasis room providing space for women in crisis.
2016: 200 women have connected with Azalea.
2017: Azalea opens a Recovery Centre in the town centre, which brings together its Drop-in, offices and rooms for Recovery programmes.