By Jenny Rayner 

This week we had the news that Hope into Action East of England has changed its name to Hope into Action UK, to reflect its rapid growth from its beginnings in Peterborough in 2010, to the UK wide charity it is quickly becoming, with the latest franchises opening in Portsmouth, Southampton and Bristol, and talks ongoing with cities in the North.

Today at Hope into Action’s Support Centre in Peterborough, we had the privilege of training people from seven different locations, and my colleague and I were asked by one of them to share our experiences of Empowerment Work. It was this point that I realised just how my role has changed since I first joined the organisation seven years ago.

On 23rd April 2012 I had the pleasure of beginning my career with HIA at the age of 63. In those days it was just a part-time job and I was known as the Female Project Worker, (because I was working with females), later changed to Empowerment Officer, and then to Empowerment Worker. Up until this time the charity had been managed by a group of dedicated volunteers under Ed Walker’s leadership, and I was one of the first paid workers.

Project work involved so much more then than Empowerment Work does now. As well as working closely with tenants and churches, I was involved in writing policies, purchasing properties, inspecting houses, ordering appliances, appeasing neighbours and other things that got me out of my comfort zone. We were operating in Peterborough; Norwich had just come on board, and I remember how delighted we were to be having talks with Cambridge and Nottingham. These are now our line-managed cities. I think it was at this point that Ed (having one of his very rare down days) said, “I think we have reached saturation point”.

But this frame of mind didn’t last long and soon we were being trained by Mark Kitson of the Cinnamon Trust in the principles of franchising, so that now we are operating in 23 towns and cities with more in the pipeline. My Empowerment Work, together with that of four others in the Peterborough Team alone, is much more concentrated on the tenants and supporting churches.  We have progressed from housing single males and females in shared houses, to providing homes for families due to the severity of the housing crisis here in Peterborough.

My work for Hope into Action has been both exciting and fulfilling as I have looked back over my life and seen how God has equipped me for this work. Now nearly 70, I hope to continue my work for as long as possible. The rapidly expanding Hope into Action family is just as close as when there was only a handful of us, and it is a joy to work with such a dedicated group of people and to start each day in prayer together.

Before I even started work here, I arranged to join the staff for their prayer time. That morning, as I woke up, God gave me a picture of butterflies with damaged wings. Wanting to understand what this meant, I checked whether it was ever possible for such creatures to survive. The answer I got from Google was that yes, they could, given “shelter and tender loving care”. I knew then, and still carry with me now, just how important these two elements are in healing the damaged people that God places in our care at Hope into Action.

If you enjoyed Jenny’s blog, click here and take a look at how Hope into Action started.