Following the sad loss of the Matthew Project’s founder, Peter Farley, in September 2022, we have been looking back at the impact this remarkable man had on thousands of people across Norfolk and beyond.
Peter worked tirelessly throughout his life to support people facing adversity, and to help them reach their full potential. He did this as a result of his Christian faith.
Peter served in the Police and then retrained as a teacher. In the early 1980s he became concerned about the level of substance misuse he was seeing among young people in the city, and the lack of support available for them.
In response to this need, Peter set up the Matthew Project, a Norfolk based charity whose name means ‘gift of God’, along with support from his wife, Margaret. He wanted the Matthew Project to be a gift to those who needed support, and believed all people were themselves gifts of great value.
“Working with young people has helped me appreciate how blessed and fortunate I am. I admire how many people have coped with adversity.”
In the early days, the charity was based at the Tackle Shop, a Norwich-based drop-in for 12-25-year-olds to get confidential advice and support, particularly around substance misuse. This was accompanied by an additional out-of-hours phoneline called the Tackle Line.
The Matthew Project then established itself within schools across Norfolk, providing a range of education and one-to-one support for young people, especially those affected by substance misuse and mental ill health. Peter also introduced the Tackle Express, a new mobile caravan built to travel around the county and provide outreach support to at-risk young people.
Little did he realise what an innovative idea this was, and he had calls from people across the country who were interested in the work which The Matthew Project was doing and the use of mobile facilities grew. The work also expanded into police stations across Norfolk, with a member of staff assigned to go and speak with any person arrested for alcohol or substance abuse. The police and church were both very supportive of the work that the project was doing.
The project continued to grow and develop into many areas. For a long time, Margaret worked as the lone administrator for the project, but by the time she retired, there was a team of nine running the administration. During these years, Peter also worked with national and international organisations, dealing with the problem of substance abuse. He visited many different countries to speak at conferences and to help those trying to find ways to support people dealing with addiction.
In 2000, Peter no longer felt he had the skills to take the project any further forward, and so stepped down as director and was delighted to hand the reins to his colleague and successor Julian Bryant.
“There is potential in everyone and what attracted me was being able to help people reach their potential.”
Peter has always been overjoyed that the project has continued to flourish and expand under different leaders, but always with the same ethos of being a gift from God to those in need.
Decades on, one of those young people still fondly remembers Peter:
“Peter had a heart capable of tremendous kindness. I was nothing more than a youngster in need who happened to walk close enough, for him to reach out and offer his unconditional support. He made the world a kinder place.”
Today, almost 40 years on, Peter’s legacy can still be seen through thousands of people reached through the Matthew Project’s work every year, and through the memories of those he knew and helped.
The following selection of tributes are testament to this:
"I had the privilege of knowing Peter Farley for over fifty years - one of the most dedicated, caring and selfless people imaginable. His was a wonderful life of service to others. His legacy of The Matthew Project will always stand in his memory.”
General The Lord Dannatt GCB CBE MC DL, Patron of The Matthew Project
"Peter Farley was an inspiration to me. His passion, energy and enthusiasm were challenging and he never gave up, securing funding and leading and developing teams to support those who were vulnerable and in need of help. His faith underpinned everything he did and he always used his many gifts for the good of others. He will be sadly missed by so many."
Margaret Wade, Trustee of The Matthew Project
“Peter's legacy will live on in the hearts and lives of all those he encountered, and all those that continue to receive support, information, guidance and hope from the Matthew Project, the organisation he set up nearly 40 years ago. Thank you, Peter, for having the courage, and for seeing the need to support vulnerable people in Norfolk by setting up the organisation I proudly work for. I hope that I can continue to help people find hope and share the gift of God that is the Matthew Project. You will be greatly missed by so many.”
Esther Heybourne, Development and Fundraising Manager at The Matthew Project
“Peter established the Matthew Project as a Christian response to support young people affected by substance misuse and homelessness. The organisation has evolved over the years but the heart of it remains. And thousands and thousands of people have been impacted over the past 38 years. Thank you, Peter and Margaret.”
Andy Sexton, CEO of The Matthew Project
“Peter was an inspirational leader who through his faith encouraged so many others to find help and redirect their lives. He will be greatly missed but his ‘Mission’ lives on as a testament to his resolve and vision.”
Henry Cator, OBE, Patron of The Matthew Project
“I had known Peter for many years when at a time of personal family trauma, (the result of which left me feeling I had lost purpose,) he was particularly helpful to me. Peter invited me to sit on the Trustee board, thereby giving me a second chance in life to contribute to a cause greater than myself. I have since enjoyed many years serving The Matthew Project in this way.”
“A very sad day for The Matthew Project – Norfolk (and beyond) would be a very different place without his vision, commitment, and passion for supporting those in need.”
Luke Adcock, Service Manager (Unity) at the Matthew Project
Recent feedback from current beneficiaries of the Matthew Project’s support programmes:
"I very much value the conversations I have with my worker. She is non-judgemental, honest, and respectful. I have benefited from her direct and informed approach with evident empathy for the experience of veterans and serving members of the armed forces"
"The Recovery Support Programme has provided me with the coping mechanisms to maintain sobriety, teaching me self-care and worth. To strive for and achieve my goals."
"On Track has affected my happiness—in the past I struggled with mental health issues. On Track has given me the opportunity to get involved with things and has helped me turn things around."
"Outside the Wire understand the pressures of leaving the service. My practitioner’s wealth of experience has taught me many things and given me a belief that I have been lacking for a long time—a belief in myself."
"I was never judged so I could talk freely. There’s no pressure. Staff are attentive and so friendly."
"I’m really thankful for you spending the time helping me getting me back on my feet and cheering me up when I need it. I’m actually lost for words how much you have really helped me and how much I have pushed forwards for the past months with you in such a short amount of time."
If you have any stories or memories about how Peter Farley or the Matthew Project have helped you, please contact [email protected].