Rachel wins Cumbria Woman of the Year

Rachel Holliday and her award (photo: D K Powell)

Rachel Holliday and her award (photo: D K Powell)

by Ken Powell

Rachel Holliday, Founder & Company Director of the Social Enterprise Time to Change (West Cumbria) project and who runs Calderwood House, has been named Cumbria Woman of the Year 2015. Rachel’s tenacity and refusal to let obstacles stop the project from becoming a reality has been honoured in a celebration which was held in Windermere on Wednesday 25 November.

The project, which offers homeless people accommodation for up to six months and support to help them rebuild their lives, was a ‘labour of love’ for Rachel who was herself homeless for some time before turning her life around and dedicating her time and effort to helping others.

Rachel’s zeal and determination is as well-known as her humility. In describing her receiving the nomination she said “I went to the celebration honoured to receive the nomination but not for one minute thinking I would win it. I was in a room full of the most inspiring and amazing women and felt humbled to be among them. I was stunned when I found out it was me. It was a lovely way to finish a long, hard couple of years.

She gave tribute to her Nana, Elsie Holliday, in her speech and admitted later that “my Nana was always very supportive of me and never judgemental about anyone ever. She was, and is, a real inspiration to me.”

The last two years of trying to set up a hostel for the homeless has not been easy and Rachel has known considerable opposition as well as huge support. When asked about her darkest moments she said “it was horrible receiving verbal abuse, online and off, when you’re trying to do something to help others. It hurt most when those who you thought would support you actually did the opposite.”

She went on to say that those painful moments were more than compensated for by the “wonderful local support” she has received. Rachel particularly praised Egremont Town Council for their help.

The project opened at the end of September and currently has six residents staying. When asked how she was finding running the project on a daily basis Rachel said “the residents are absolutely wonderful. They’re very grateful for the opportunities and support given to them through Time to Change (West Cumbria) and have really embraced what we have going on here.”

Some of the opposition to the project has been over concerns for safety for people living in area but Rachel was keen to dispel any fears.

“Come here and see what we do, everyone is welcome” she said, glowing. “Come and meet my staff, meet the residents and be part of something special, you will soon feel safe.

Rachel is now looking to add to her staff and would welcome anyone who is thinking of a career in support work to contact her. Simply drop a CV with covering letter into Calderwood House or call 01946 439312 and ask to speak to Rachel for more information.

Cumbria Woman of the Year (photo: D K Powell)

Cumbria Woman of the Year (photo: D K Powell)