Inspiring women in recovery: how one trust is changing lives through the Women's Institute


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) has established the first recovery-focused Women’s Institute to meet within an NHS setting, and welcome women from its services, staff and the community to come together in a supportive environment.

Joanne Croxford, Social Recovery Project Manager for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, talks about her experiences and how she found the WI.

Joanne's story

As a recovering addict, I once found solace in substances to distract my feelings of never quite fitting in and ultimately, loneliness. I lacked the ability to establish and harness connections in my chaotic life and the one person I just couldn’t reach - who I wanted to be in touch with the most - was myself. Now I understand that this is an important ingredient to any recipe of a happy life.

Since getting clean and finding a new life I have become determined to make the important links to others that ultimately make me feel more like myself. I want to be free to be the person I am, regardless of my experiences and most of all I want to be somewhere I can have a laugh with others who can relate.

In joining the country’s largest women’s voluntary organisation - the WI - I have found all of this and more. It is a place to be with other women who come together to learn new skills, campaign on issues that matter to them and above all, make lasting and supportive friendships.

When did CPFT get involved in the WI?

It was this final point that inspired the CPFT WI initiative. With the help of local WI federations, we’ve established the first outward-facing, recovery-focused WI that meets in an NHS environment.

We welcome women from our services, colleagues and the community to come together on an equal footing, in a supportive environment where relationships are at its core.

Whatever we choose to do in our meetings, improving our wellbeing is always at the heart. The best bit is we have established relationships with ourselves too as we’ve found a sanctuary free from labels and stigma where we can be whatever we want to be. 

What next?

With the help of NHS Improvement, I dream of an outward-facing, recovery-focused WI to be established in every NHS mental health trust. 

Seeing the progress that women who have joined our WI have made, is the best example to show that the CPFT WI initiative is essential for helping people gain meaningful connections with others. Not to mention it has helped this recovering addict feel she has finally found the right track to her life too and, as a result, a shatter-proof foundation of self love.

How can I find out more?

For more information, visit the CPFT WI initiative website or email

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