Free Me is a London based charity that provides free care and support to women recovering from eating disorders and addictions. Free Me owns our jewellery brand and social enterprise Sweet Cavanagh.
Based in Notting Hill, our happy little charity is open two days each week. We bring new members on board all the time and are a busy workshop.
In addition to providing support and motivation, we also give our members a platform to become self-employed as jewellery designers and creators, which empowers them in ways they could not have imagined when in the depth of their illness.
The cost of inpatient care is staggering and the strain on the NHS means that many people do not get the help they desperately need. Many people leave treatment early, not because they are ready but because they run out of funding; Free Me combats this issue by filling the gap in the services currently provided by the private and public sector.
As part of our four month program, women have access to individual and group therapy, drama and movement therapy, and individual and group nutritional counseling with a registered dietician. We also run a “Work to Recover”, in which we partner with London based recruitment agency Sidekicks to offer monthly workshops on CV writing and interview coaching. Graduates from the Free Me recovery program also have the opportunity to be placed in internships and eventually full or part-time work placements.
Like all of our craftswomen, our jewellery is bold, beautiful and unique. Each piece is designed and handmade in London using a mixture of semi precious stones, metals and glass. We are passionate about quality and all of our jewellery is made to the highest standard.
All profits from jewellery sales go back into our charity, Free Me (registered charity number 1152120), which supports our craftswomen and allows us to invest in materials, design, education and treatment.
We are incredibly proud to say that since we began we have won several grants, which allow us to continue the incredible work that we do. We are recipients of funding from the Unltd Start Up Program, the Lloyds Banking Group Social Entrepreneurs Program, The Comic Relief Give It Up Grant, the Santander Community Plus Grant, and the Roses Charity Grant. We have benefitted so much from these amazing associations, and are ever grateful to all of them for their support and guidance.
The story behind Sweet Cavanagh
I founded Sweet Cavanagh after my own personal experience with recovery. I was admitted into rehab over six years ago for addiction and an eating disorder. It was in treatment that I began making jewellery. Once a week we attended craft sessions that had an amazing therapeutic effect on me. To engage in a creative process, use my hands and practice a mindful activity helped me to grow my self-esteem. At the age of 24 I felt so defeated that the small act of making a bracelet was like a mighty triumph to me, and slowly my confidence began to grow.
After 5 months I returned to London and was confronted with my old life and all its bad behaviour patterns, however I was so determined not to relapse that I started to create a new life in London, a sober and clean life that focused on the new behaviours I’d been taught. I stuck to my food plan, saw a nutritionist, attended 12 step meetings and did everything they told me to. Amazingly I stayed sober with a healthy weight. I am one of the lucky ones. I watched helplessly as friends relapsed around me and I was haunted with the why. The answer is of course that we all have our own paths and what works for one does not necessarily work for another, not immediately anyway. However, I couldn’t help but notice how little aftercare there is in London. For many leaving treatment the idea of returning to full time employment is terrifying, and yet so many have no choice but to get straight back in there. Many with eating disorders have been in a horrifying cycle of inpatient care for years; every time they are returned to the world they last a matter of weeks before they relapse because there is no stepping stone between the cocoon of inpatient care and society. A friend of mine was in this very cycle when I asked her to join me and make jewellery a few times a week. Slowly we added another woman and then another. During one of our sessions one of the women pointed out that we had created a social enterprise, once I had this awareness I knew it had to grow. Six months later we had a limited company, a premises, charitable status, affiliations with two treatment centres and a group of five women.
Just like our recoveries, Free Me continues to grow and gain strength, however it is not only those with addictions and eating disorders that suffer from low self-esteem and bad body image, and we would like to inspire everyone to judge themselves a little less and love themselves a little more.