New Hope at 25: Stella reflects

Today, we come together to celebrate the momentous occasion of New Hope’s 25th Anniversary.

The service opened in October 1998. The team walked into a spanking-new building and could still smell the paint. They were all in awe of the space and the living areas for the residents. The team had the privilege of assessing potential residents in different hospitals and secure units. They were brimming with excitement to be part of the residents’ recovery journeys. The first resident moved in on the 9th November of that year. The team managed to overcome all the challenges they faced in the first six months as everyone was just excited to do well and do well they did!

In an era of constant changes and disruption, the service has delivered consistently high standards of care and support for men experiencing severe mental ill health who have been referred through the forensic pathway.

Perhaps even more remarkable, another consistent over the past two and a half decades has been the leadership of Service Manager Stella Asiimwe, whose passion, drive and determination have guided the service through many twists and turns.

Stella reflected on the many changes she has seen at New Hope over the years. “The staff structure has changed a lot. We used to have sleep-in staff, in addition to waking nights, with a single manager called the project coordinator”.

However, Stella also feels staff are now a lot more skilled at working with the residents. “There is more focus on coaching and training, and we have developed more effective ways of working with residents. This has led to a decrease in the number of incidents”, despite an overall increase in the levels of complexity the team are often faced with.

Not only is New Hope a flagship, high-support service in Lewisham, but it has also supported people from other boroughs who other service providers found challenging to work with. In 2014, the service expanded, providing spot purchase beds for other local authorities. It continues to be considered a model service in the borough of Lewisham for community mental health care.

Certainly, the service’s outcomes are impressive. Of the 153 residents the service has supported, over 70% have successfully moved on into either step-down or independent living. Of course, with such a high-intensity service, there have also been some recalls to hospital and prisons, but Stella and the team have always looked to learn from these incidents in collaboration with the Community Mental Health Team.
Indeed, one of New Hope’s greatest assets is how well it is embedded in the local community, and the close relationships it maintains with healthcare and treatment providers, police, the council and other key local stakeholders.

We asked Stella what New Hope’s secret to success was over the last quarter of a century. “First of all, believing that change is possible and putting residents at the heart of what we do. Also, involving people in the service’s day-to-day running was crucial. Maintaining a therapeutic, enabling, and safe environment, personalising the care we provide, and treating people as we would like to be treated.”
“The team maintained a positive culture and worked towards a common goal. We recognise and respect individual differences and learn from each other. We have successfully upheld the reputation of the service, and a big part of that has been our collaborative approach with our working partners”.

We asked Stella what she was most proud of in her time at the service. “Being part of an organisation that has made and continues to make a positive impact on people’s lives. Seeing the people we support making positive and meaningful changes in their lives, learning new skills, engaging in education, and building positive relationships. Most significantly, instilling hope in people who were in a state of despair”.
“Looking back, I feel fulfilled knowing that I have played a key role in supporting people in their journey to recovery, rebuilding their lives and reuniting families”.

We end with some quotes from just a handful of people the service has impacted over the years:
“I would like to say a big thank you !! You helped me through the bad time, even when I thought my life was going nowhere. But you showed me that all was not lost. I will always remember you all and take with me a little bit of you all always. Thank you.” – Former resident

“Thank you to the manager and all the staff. My son was very happy and settled at New Hope. He was given so much support here and said to me yesterday he misses you all.” – Family member.
“We have huge admiration for your organisation’s patience, nobility and desire to devote energy into your work. It would be very easy to become cynical of the system in such potentially challenging circumstance. But we’re struck by your dedication, positivity, and enthusiasm to help improve people’s lives. Congratulations to you.” – Local police

“Thank you for starting me on the journey to understanding the more in me. I will appreciate you always”—BSc (Hons) in Social Work graduate.

“Thanks to the staff, everyone there helped me when I was there. They made me feel welcome. The manager and staff were all good to me and they supported me in all aspects of my recovery. Thank you all.” – Resident

Happy birthday New Hope and here’s to another 25!