Pioneer of vice girl project to retire
The director of a Norwich project, which aims to help city prostitutes establish a life away from the streets, has decided to retire.
Theresa Cumbers has dedicated the past 12 years of her working life towards the pioneering Magdalene Project.
With the support of her colleagues, the grandmother and mother of two has helped transform dozens of lives.
Writing to the group's supporters, Theresa said: “I will be retiring from The Magdalene Group at the end of February 2006, although I hasten to add that my links will remain with the work here in Norwich.
“I am happy to say that I will be pursuing my role as trustee of a national group, with whom I have been associated with for many years, and will continue to work strategically by committing to facilitating a network to assist groups in providing opportunities for freedom and change to people involved in prostitution.”
Last year Theresa was named Pioneer of the City by the Norwich Evening News in their Local Heroes Awards and later given the Marks & Spencer Sieff award for the East of England for her success in attracting business support for the project.
It was while she was a magistrate in Norwich that, along with Doreen Betts and Doreen Green, Theresa became concerned about the number of prostitutes who were appearing before the bench.
Concern grew as they looked more closely at the problems and abuse of those working in the streets. Volunteers went out with Theresa every week at night, taking hot drinks and with open minds as they sought to establish relationships with the prostitutes and discover from them what help they really needed.
From this grew the Magdalene Group project to offer support, a place of safety and opportunity for change. The project has four members of staff and many volunteers.
The wide range of activities includes individual counselling and support, help with housing, accompanying clients to court and other interviews, fun outings for families, basic tuition in IT and sewing skills, and arts and crafts activities.
The drop-in centre, near the city centre, with its comfortable sitting area is a popular venue. The ethos is one of friendship and unconditional acceptance, as relationships of trust are built up.
Although her own motivation is from her Christian faith, Theresa doesn’t push that at others. ”It has been a privilege to share part of their journey over these 13 years. I have learned from them and to see people in such a dire situation come through the other side is wonderful,” she said.
During these years 35 prostitutes, including three men, have walked away from prostitution and are rebuilding their lives.
Pictured above is local hero Theresa Cumbers.