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azadi trust house

Azadi Trust, Birmingham: a place of refuge for those in need

azadi trust Azadi Trust
5 min

The Azadi Trust has been a client of Stewardship’s lending team for almost 27 years.

Earlier this year they redeemed their Loan in full. Charity Coordinator Mike Hodges sat down with Floss Wilkinson from the Church and Charity Lending team to discuss Azadi Trust, their mission, impact and how a loan from Stewardship supported their work in inner city Birmingham.

Floss: Tell us about the Azadi Trust, how it started and a bit about its history? 

Mike: Azadi Trust was started in the inner city of Birmingham in the early 90s by a Christian GP who was in contact with a large number of mainly Pakistani guys suffering from drug addiction and the charity was started to minister to them (‘Azadi’ is the Urdu word for ‘freedom’). My wife Liz and I became involved in the work then. By 1996 the GP practice and the drugs work had closed but the work of the Trust continued and broadened to include youth work, homework clubs etc. - anywhere we felt the Lord opened doors to the local community.  Much of the work was based in the old surgery building. In 1997, with the support of our local church and with the support of a loan from Stewardship, the Trust was able to purchase the building.

We have since transformed the old surgery to become Azadi House, which has provided accommodation for Christian single men needing somewhere to stay locally, so they can engage in local church life and mission. Particularly latterly, the House has become more of a place of refuge for those who need emergency housing and support.

As a charity we have changed a lot but what has remained constant is our aim to see where God is working and use our resources to support that work. For example, if there is a small project operating locally which doesn’t have the time or money to set itself up as a charity, we provide an umbrella for that project. Currently we have a number of projects in the area which include Hope Garden, Open Door Friendship Centre and the main one which is the Azadi House.

Floss: What is your role within the Azadi Trust? 

Mike: My background is in social work, and I use that experience to support the charity. I am mainly involved in the work around the Azadi House where I offer pastoral and practical support. The residents need a lot of support, and so I am down there 3 or 4 days a week in order to help and encourage them. I also do the administration for Azadi House which can be mind-bending at times! We are currently in the process of negotiating a license with the city council in order to continue what we are, and that has been fraught with all sorts of difficulties. 

Floss: How do you support the residents at the house? 

We have very diverse residents at the moment, and therefore how we support them will vary from individual to individual. As well as the practical support of somewhere warm to stay, we offer emotional, pastoral, and material support to each resident. We have a welfare fund meaning that we can also offer financial assistant to the residents where appropriate as well. 

We try to show God’s love practically – and do it well!  

Floss: Are you able to share any testimonies of how you seen God move in your ministry? 

Mike: Most of the residents that come are already committed Christians and so our role is mainly to pastorally support their faith journey. 

Currently, we have a young lad who was an emergency placement two years ago when he got kicked out of a local HMO. He has massive emotional difficulties but has come to faith in a real way, his background is so appalling that he needs a lot of support from us. 

Floss: When did partnership with Stewardship begin and how did you find using our lending services? 

Mike: What was helpful about our partnership with Stewardship is that you listened to us and to our needs. You do make sure you do your due diligence (and sometimes that has been quite rigorous!), but overall, when we have had a need we have been able to come to you and you listened and re-jigged the loan so that we can do what we needed to get done.

For example, we had an annex which was an old workshop and was un-heated and needed complete refurbishment. We got a plan together which involved the renovation of the workshop and addition of disabled facilities. It was quite an expensive project, and we received some grant help for it, but most of the project was financed by Stewardship. We are very grateful for it because we use it all the time and it adds value to the house.

the workshop

So that’s just one example, more recently during Covid we were in financial difficulty after we lost two residents; one who died and one who moved to be closer to his son. We were at the point that we couldn’t afford the loan repayments. The lending team allowed us to drop the capital repayments until we were in a position where we could afford it.

We also use Stewardship’s payroll services which we are so grateful for as it takes a lot of administration off our hands. We also have a giving account with Stewardship which is very important to us. 

Floss: What are your hopes for Azadi Trust? 

Mike: We have been gradually becoming more professional and we now employ someone to maintain governance of the charity part-time. We are at the point of employing someone to offer pastoral care nearly full time across all our projects.

But we need to keep revisiting our model of being a vehicle for Christian outreach in our area and seeing what that means in practice.

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