Getting sick of the kids leaving their clothes behind, I would duly go and put them in the Cancer Society bins. (The clothes, not the children). And then, about six months ago, Womens’ Refuge suddenly popped into my mind. I knew there was one around here because some of our mums, in the past, had used it.
So I looked them up online and gave them a ring. A lovely woman came to get the clothes I had for her. A woman who was weary, and wary, and who, I later found out was the Refuge Co-ordinator. She was really pleased to get the clothes for the kids at the Refuge, and I told her I would get some more stuff together. I did that, she came and got it, and then suddenly, it blurted out of her mouth, a long list of stuff they had desperate need of, for one of their women in particular.
I put out the call on Facebook, and Twitter, and a few things were dropped off. A trickle rather than a deluge, let’s put it like that.
I thought nothing of it. But the Co-ordinator would ring me, or message me on Facebook, and tell me what was needed urgently. At one point, the Manager of the Refuge said that I was their largest benefactor. This threw me, and appalled me, and I decided that this was bigger than a one woman job.
Because it transpires that this tiny Refuge, Te Whare Marama, is not part of the National Collective. It was started 21 years ago by the Mangere Law Centre because they were getting so many bashed women through their doors. They've only ever been funded by MSD for 2 1/2 staff, -- for 10 yrs, the previous co-ordinator was doing no applications for funding, so there was nothing extra for the women, at all. Much of the time, there still isn't anything extra.
The women don’t just turn up and live there for free – although, actually most of them do. They pay on a sliding scale if and as they can. Even so, the Refuge pays for all their toiletries and other sundries. None of them have clothes or shoes in the main, and are so very grateful for anything they receive.
After a couple of months of this, during my bereavement leave, having some time on my hands, I started communicating with the Refuge Co-ordinator again about their needs. So having established that this was more than I could take on by myself, I gathered together a group of people – who I have fondly named the Aunty Mafia – to help me.
We talked about what the Refuge required, and how we could make meeting those needs more sustainable. It transpires that there is a big need for this: welcome packs for each family (there are around 36 families a year who use this Refuge), and vouchers for furniture and household purchases when they finally move on. Some funding has been foundfor a financial freedom course giving one-to-one time to the mums to plan, educate and get them out of debt and started up with better financial decisions. That will begin next year. But other stuff is going to take a lot of money. So we’re looking at ways of doing that.
And in the meantime, there’s Christmas, and its attendant difficulties for people who have nothing. I’ve organized to have this Christmas be one that the folks at the Refuge will remember. I’ve talked to all the women about what their needs might be, and in the process, have discovered that there are some needs that aren’t being met, and won’t be, by throwing a Christmas for them.
If you’ll allow me to, I would like to keep you updated on those needs, and right now, I have some requests I am wondering if any of you would be able to fulfill.
There are six women currently in this small Refuge, and 16 children (with one on the way). And here is what they have told me they need, and what I have surmised they need:
They need nappies, disposable nappies.
They need baby products of all description.
They need underwear, in all sizes – knickers and bras.
They need bed linen, and duvets, and blankets, and pillows.
There is an enormous need for clothes and shoes. There is always a need for childrens’ clothes and shoes.
They need some technology. At least one more laptop. Mobile phones and sim cards -- because the women's phones have been broken by their partners, or monitored and controlled. Phones are a safety factor. The staff themselves currently work with the cheapest phones available.
They need, in my professional opinion, bikes – the big kids currently share one small one, which they zoom around, the very small front yard, on.
They need toiletries – toothpaste, soap, shampoos, conditioner, deodorants.
I could go on. What I will say is this: they need friends. So if you are interested in jumping onboard, and helping me to keep this great little place afloat, just email me. And we’ll sort something out. I’m good like that. And you’ll feel great about it – I promise you that much.
(If you click the email icon under this post your mail will go through to Russell, who will pass it on to me.)
PS: You can contribute money as well as things via the Refuge's bank account: ASB 12-3076-0489694-00 . Use Jackie as the reference.