Nestled at the top of Bold Street, WHISC provides a service to the women of Liverpool that is unique in this city. Offering advice, counselling, a means to connect with others with like-minded interests and sometimes just a friendly face and a place to pop in, WHISC has been quietly working away to promote the health and wellbeing of women in the city since for over 30 years. With so many social organisations having risen and fallen during that time, what is their secret to longevity? LVL heads to Bold Street to check out the Women’s Health Information and Support Centre (WHISC).
I catch up with WHISC’s manager Caroline Willcocks, in their cosy, homely reception area, to find out what WHISC is about, “WHISC works with all women, and increasingly in the field of mental health, because there is a great deal of distress that manifests itself with women in the area. Many women we see have health problems, many are on benefits and have got a great deal of distress with austerity, likewise we work with women who are refugees and asylum seekers, who also may be experiencing distress. Older women may at times feel more isolated, and we work with those women too. We have people coming in who have experienced domestic abuse … there is a lot of stress and anxiety out there” Caroline explains.
The project offers a wide range of services, from support groups, counselling, solution focused therapy and a listening ear to more indirect forms of help, “we have a lot of other effective activities like yoga, pilates, a reading group, our ‘do it course’ and a drop in Monday to Thursday…people can pop in and have a chat, we try to cultivate an atmosphere where you don’t need an appointment”. There is a massage and holistic therapy service too, with discounted rates.
The service relies on volunteers to keep its heart beating, “Women just want to give back, we’ve always had large numbers of volunteers. We have the equivalent of four full-time staff here…we just could not do it without volunteers” and although, as with all charities fundraising in an era of cuts and austerity, there are challenges, the centre continues to provide a much needed service for Liverpool.
WHISC have been running for thirty four years, what is the secret to its longevity? “It’s an empowering organisation to be involved with. We get so many women who enjoy coming here…there are so many terrible stories but lots of laughs too! WHISC is a bit like an old sock that’s darned and darned…there is not much of the original left but it’s still the same. Everyone’s so kind here.”
What of the future? WHISC will be fundraising in the autumn for its Cherish service for women who have experienced the loss of their baby, classes begin again in September, and there is a drop in Monday-Thursday from 10am-4pm, or “Just come in and have a chat and find out more”.
WHISC / 120 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4JA / 0151 707 1826
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Images courtesy of WHISC