When a woman leaves an abusive relationship she will often leave with the clothes she’s wearing, her children and not much else. Churches can provide vital practical support for these women at a critical time. The following are some initiatives you might like to pursue with your faith community.
Care packages for local refuges
Start by Googling “women’s shelter domestic violence” with the name of your suburb or city to find a local provider. Then ring them and ask them what they need. They will then come and pick up your donation (they will never tell you the location or address, because it's the only way to ensure the safety of the women and children at the refuge).
Gift ideas for children: new toys, books, clothing, stationery, colouring in books, puzzles.
Toiletry packs: toiletry bags, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, soap, moisturiser, soft toilet paper, tissues, sanitary items.
And you can’t go past gift cards so that survivors can buy clothes and household items to start building a new independent life.
Furnish a safe haven
Women many times leave their homes very quickly without packing. All they take with them are their children and the clothes on their back. While those early weeks are spent being supported within a refuge the time soon comes to move to public housing or a private rental. The houses available are basic. Often there’s no carpet on the floors, no curtains and no furniture. At a vulnerable time these women face the added burden of furnishing a house on limited resources. What happens next can mean the difference between moving forward, or returning to the control of the abusive partner.
Idea: Your church could help to furnish a safe haven to help survivors start over. The kinds of items they may need: furniture, whitegoods, bed linen, pillows, towels, curtains, cutlery, crockery, kitchenware, grocery staples, children’s toys and books.
Use your skills
Local women’s refuges have many needs that you might be able to fill. Start by Googling “women’s shelter domestic violence” to find a local service and ask them what they need. You might be able to:
Cook meals or donate food
Ask if they need food donations and offer to run a food drive for much-needed items at a time of year when their pantry gets low. Ask if you could host a cooking class.
See if they could use a hand cleaning donated items, shelving, rooms, laundry, or just overall organising their space. If you enjoy interior decorating, you could buy new items and work your magic to create a home-life atmosphere of tranquility and peace.
Use your artistic abilities
Offer to teach free lessons or host craft times to provide children with some much-needed entertainment. Or offer to help create and stock an art or craft area for the shelter.
Give gifts to refuge staff
Purchase holiday gifts for your local refuge staff, or a massage gift certificate, a restaurant gift card, or anything that gives them a break from their long and tireless hours.
Offer community education
Many times your local refuge just cannot do as much as they would like due to budgets and staffing. Possibly, you could volunteer time to take their materials to various service groups and organisations in your area and talk about the mission, goals, and needs of the shelter, while gaining awareness for family violence issues in your community.
Raise some cold hard cash
Refuges across Australia are terribly underfunded and are turning people away. Plan a fundraiser and come up with something unique that will work in your community to raise awareness for your local shelter’s work, while also raising much needed funds to support their efforts. If you manage a business that would like to 'sponsor a shelter’, there are many refuges in Australia that are entirely self-funded through donations.
Please let us know if any of these ideas inspired you to do more. Email [email protected]