Kindness.

Today was the National Day of Random Acts of Kindness. I’m not really about having a day especially for kindness, but I am aware that many people need a focus for random acts of kindness, and that’s okay.

Let me tell you, though, about what kindness looked like, in my life, today. Many days are full of kindness towards the women at Refuge – most days consist of emails offering me stuff, or money, or kind words.

Today though was something a bit special. It started, unbeknownst to me, with a call by the ASB on Twitter for nominees for a $250 one-off gift. Some very kind people nominated the #twitteraunties, and towards the end of the day, we recieved a tweet to say that we were the recipients of said $250. How wonderful!

And then, in the middle of a meeting at work , a soft knock on the door. It was my H. My H is one of the pieces of my heart. She is a woman who’s been knocked around by life, alot. I met her in refuge, I’ve held her in my arms when life has taken a tragic turn, and then she went on to a new life, we thought. Kris and I were so happy for her. Twitter Aunties in Christchurch took her under their wings. She was finding some light again. And then, again, she was knocked down. She has come back to Auckland, and here she was. I took her in my arms – “you should never have shown me where you worked” – and I held on to her. She’s staying with another ex refuge mum, just for the moment, neither of them with any money, and then I suddenly remembered that I had been given $50 worth of Countdown vouchers which I was able to give to her.

I left work, and went to ring the woman who had helped H in Christchurch to let her know that she was safe, and instead got her business partner on the phone. A beautiful woman, a woman with heart and compassion, who listened as I sobbed on the phone, and reassured me that if there was anything the group of women could do down there, they would.

I ended the phone call and went to the fruit and vege shop to get some stuff for dinner. While there, Paul the shop owner asked me how I was. When I told him about H and what the situation was, he immediately went to fill a bag with fruit and vege for the two women.

When I got home, I recieved a call from a friend about a situation that required immediate attention, someone who needed rescuing. I, in turn, rang another friend to ask advice. And she and her partner leapt to help.

This is a day of kindnesses to strangers. This is a day, a day like most others, a day given a name to promote kindness. But the kindnesses I experienced today weren’t random. They fell into place, one after the other.

This is what kindness looks like, in my life.

Money and safety.

I have an extraordinary request from the refuge co-ordinator for money. She sends me these from time to time, letting me know if the women have needs that go above and beyond the routine. I know we’ve had a couple of these lately.

So let me explain this so you better understand why giving money to refuge can be a very good thing.

The MSD fund each woman for one month. That’s it. The refuge is funded to keep them, yes that’s right, for just one month. As you may gather, most of the women stay for much longer than that.

The Housing NZ situation means that women stay there until they can find a house to move into, to start their new lives. In some cases, this takes two months, in some cases it takes six months. Either way, the refuge has a shortfall to cover. The women pay $150 a week (plus extra per child) to be there. Grants are applied for, and extra funding. But it’s costly to support that many people living there.

So when we are able to pay for a woman’s car registration, or some other extra expense, it takes pressure off the refuge. It means that they can, in essence, support more people.

I tell you all of this because I am going to ask you to help me.

One of the women has a car in need of repairs. She has a quote for $330 to fix her car to get a WOF and then she can go and sit her restricted licence. 

We all know, those of us who drive cars,  what it means to have functional transport. If you have no other choices in life, if you have a car that works, you at least have the ability to escape.

If we could do this for this woman, it would make her life easier. And it also means the refuge can spend the $330 on supporting another woman in crisis.  If you would like to support her, you can pay the money into the refuge’s bank account – 12-3076-0489694-00  You can put JCar as the reference.    You will be receipted.

I thank you for your consideration.

Twitter Aunties 101. Who we are, what we need.

Welcome to the Twitter Aunties. If you’re curious about what we do, it is simply this. We provide the material needs for women who find themselves at a particular refuge somewhere in Auckland. We also help the refuge co-ordinator, and her staff to support the women in the local community who have left refuge and have stayed in touch, and continue to visit  Refuge when they’re in need.

18 months ago, I started helping out the refuge co-ordinator to get some needs met. In October last year, I sought the help of some other women and we have grown from there. I visit the refuge every Wednesday after work – I am not paid by the Refuge, I am a volunteer.

If you want to donate money to the Refuge, their bank a/c details are:

ASB 12-3076-0489694-00  if you are banking online. If you are doing a manual deposit, please contact me and I will give you further details. 

Please use Jackie as the reference.

If you want to donate to our givealittle page, we are raising money to do a monthly shop for the refuge residents. They pay to be in refuge, and they also have to buy all of their own food. You can help. 

Or you can make an automatic payment to the Aunties bank account that we use to purchase food. 

12-3077-0008717-00

http://www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/aunties

 

My twitter handle is @whaeapower

My email address is [email protected]

 

The first time I went to Refuge:   http://www.aunties.co.nz/2013/07/05/people-helping-people/

What it feels like to go to refuge:  http://www.aunties.co.nz/2014/02/17/the-holiday-house/

What the Refuge offers:  http://www.aunties.co.nz/2014/02/19/what-the-refuge-offers/

 

Note: many of the women are not escaping violence, many of them are. Many of them come to refuge in their cars. They are at refuge for a variety of reasons, primary of which is to seek change or respite from their lives.

 

This Refuge is not part of the National Collective of Women’s Refuges. It has been operating for around 21 years, started by a lawyer from a law centre who dealt with many clients who were experiencing domestic violence. It is run on somewhat unconventional grounds, and I have extraordinary access to the refuge co-ordinator, and to the women themselves, but it does the same work as every other refuge around the country, just with less support. Because it’s not part of the Collective, there is no fundraising as such, and the co-ordinator has to apply for funding and grants as well as do all her other work.

We have built up a strong relationship over time, and we communicate regularly (via Facebook Messenger). She communicates any situations, or needs, that she thinks I/the Aunties may need to know about. I take her lead in all things, and there is little we don’t talk about. If you have any questions for her, I will relay them for you. Other needs are relayed to me via the Refuge staff on the odd occasion that I’m able to see them.

If you think you can provide anything on this list, email me at [email protected],  and we’ll take it from there. . When women have specific needs,  they communicate those to me. When a woman first arrives, I go to meet them, and find out what it is they think they need. At first, they are reticent, but it becomes fairly clear that I can get most things for them, so they soon learn to trust that they will be provided for. I have also, now, come to know what is needed most but never asked for. The needs set out below are based on what the refuge staff have told me, the common needs that are communicated to me, by the women collectively, and on my own knowledge. Knowledge that comes from over 18 months of sitting down with the women on an individual basis.

When  you read this list, it is likely that you will think that quite a number of things could be sourced by going to large chain stores, and approaching them for goodwill. One of the reasons that neither the co-ordinator nor I are keen on this is that once you do that, once it becomes “big”, the Refuge is more vulnerable to attack. Big time sponsorship is not likely to be something we look at, so please bear that in mind.  I also don’t have time to approach these companies. If, however, you want to approach smaller shops/retail outlets for anything, just go ahead and do that, that’s fine! If you’re going to do it in writing, please email draft to me first to look over.

Cooking Lessons: We’re always on the look out for women to join the cooking lesson roster. These are held on Tuesdays from 12-2. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with the co-ordinator.

To go along with these, we need household appliances such as blender, blender sticks/whizzes, slow cooker etc to teach the ladies how to make soups, and home cooked easy meals.

Freezer – We’re always open to people cooking bulk meals for the freezer. The women share dinner together at night, and this is a wonderful way for them all to bond.  You would need to be able to cook a meal for 6 adults, and up to 17 chn at one time.

Suitcases - many of the women arrive with only the one suitcase, or whatever they have managed to get away with in black plastic bags. When they move on to their new lives/homes, they need suitcases!

Kids clothes - 36 families a year in Refuge. Often there are 12-15 children at at time. Currently there are around 9 kids in there. They can range in age from 19 to newborn. Circumstances change very quickly at the Refuge – women come and go all the time. So clothes are a precious commodity. Thanks to all of you, not as precious as they were. But there is, obviously, an ongoing need. Any clothes that the women don’t require are put in the clothing shed, and are accessed regularly by women when they first arrive, and women in the community who are doing courses at Refuge, or just visit when they need something. A cup of tea, some company, a bit of laughter.

Undies and Bras - I’ve learned to ask this question. Many don’t have a lot of underwear they bring with them. Undies in sizes 10-22, please. Vouchers would be brilliant but actual brand new undies are even better. In the first few days after the women arrive, even if they arrive in their own cars, they are somewhat reluctant to leave the Refuge grounds, and they soon run out of clean undies. And bras are lovely because pretty things are important when you’re feeling vulnerable, lonely and more than a bit lost. I have learned – not being a bra wearer myself – that pretty bras are something the women really appreciate. Once again, in all sizes, all shapes!

Shoes – all ages, all sizes, just everything and anything

Sanitary products

Toiletries – soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner, face washing, moisturizers,  handcream, razors.

Regular pamper nights, hairdresser  – we’ve had this happen on an ad hoc basis, but I really want someone who is able to do this regularly, please.

Televisons/freeview boxes - being at refuge can be very boring if women are there for a while, and it’s great for them to be able to escape to their rooms, away from the hurlyburly, if they are still recovering from trauma. It’s also really hard to adapt to living in a house where there’s so many people, and lots of children who make noise! Their rooms are their sanctuary, and most don’t read, or when they arrive, are too adrenalised to focus on books. Tellies do the trick.

Technological needs: please see Rob’s website      http://prng.net/donate/

Batteries

Credit on phones – the women come with their own phones.  We get them, to change their phone numbers, or swap sim cards but most of them have prepaid phone and operate on little or no credit.

 

Sim cards.

What do women need when they leave?

Kitchen stuff: toaster, kettle, appliances? Tea towels, cutlery, cups, dinner set

Vacuum cleaners

Bedroom furniture

Cleaning products.

Power bills – sponsor a family? Power cards.

Carseats to give to the families

Most mums drive but not with a license: helping them get a licence

Any school needs for kids new schools when they move out.

Most families in need of a vehicle:  is there any trusts/organizations that would help a family with weekly payments of a car? (Family would repay car at a very low rate)

Car registrations: at $140 for 6 months registration, this is normally out of reach for the women. This is something I check on from time to time and have asked the Aunties only once before to pay for it.  We have plans for setting up a givealittle page that is connected to us, and not to the Refuge, so that we can do this on a regular basis.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

 

Many thanks for your interest, and compassion.

Jackie Clark

#whaeapower

 

 

 

 

 

 

The price of being a young woman. TW Rape.

Tonight, a friend of mine contacted me privately. She wanted to tell me her story of rape. She, like me, is middleaged. She, like me, has made a life for herself with a good man. But we all carry our secrets, we middleaged women. And the shame of it is that, although this happened over 35 years ago, this could still happen today, and does. Because this is the culture of our country. Our national shame. The blot on our copybook. Young women have always been made to feel it was their fault. They asked for it.
But we didn’t. We never asked for it. We believed we were silly for getting into certain situations, and it’s only as we age, and reflect, and have love for the young women we were, that we know how very wrong we were to blame ourselves. This is her story, as told to me. I wept when she was sharing this, as I recognised a version of my own story.

Ok. This is hard. But here’s a tale about what rape is. I don’t go public with it. Ever. But I’m happy for you to retell to let others know.I was 16. I got my first real boyfriend. We went out one night. I drank, not too much but illegally. My parents didn’t know. I got drunk .. all drunk. We got in the car and went. When we got there were a group — three of the coolest guys from school. Me and bf went walking
We started making out — sort of, but not all the way. My jeans were off. So were his. Then voices. “go on mate. then we’ll have our turn”.. all drunk. Nah she’s all mine he said. And he had sex with me. My first time. They watched. Hooted. Jeered and Yelled. I ws too drunk to leave.But I remember. Every fucking detail. Then a another car arrived. They left, taking my jeans with them. We left too. Driving home, no pants.Sneaking in the house so Mum and Dad didn’t see me. Covering it up. Because I shouldn’t have gone out and done that and got drunk.All my fault! Sick eh. The whole scene. But it wasn’t really rape, was it? He was “saving” me. And you know I saw him a couple of years agoI was behind him in a supermarket in a strange town. He turned around: looked me in the eyes, dropped his beer and ran. the fear in his eyes made me realise after decades that it it was not my fucking fault. That if my parents had been in the slightest aware or engaged, theywould have loved me, not blamed. (I told no-one until I was 30!) I don’t know what you could do wth this. But I know that somewhere, smeone needs to know that. He is scared that one day I will come after him. But what a cross to bear. I hope he making amends n his own way.

Depression needs a new name.

This piece was written by my good friend Jane. I convinced her to let me publish it here. It is unedited.
Just read Deborah Hill-Cone’s piece on Charlotte Dawson. I’m not linking it-it is vile click bait and one of the more despicable opinion pieces I’ve read.

What is really fucking me off about the reportage is that circumstances and events are purportedly to blame for her death. Twitter trolls, ageing, financial and personal insecurity, abortion have all been trotted out as the reason she took her own life. And yes, these things contribute but not the root cause.

Depression. I think we need to find another word for it. Depression is too kind, soft, like a slow exhalation of breath. It is anything but that. It’s a neverending chasm, the further you fall, the less light there is. It can gradually build or it can fucking slam you unawares. Sometimes there’s no time to ‘reach out’, no time to reason with yourself. Other times, you can see the signs, be kind to yourself, find help. But mostly, you’re just scared of not coping, being seen to be not coping.

I don’t know Charlotte Dawson but from what I have read about her, she was ace at holding other people up, putting others’ needs before her’s and generally fighting the good fight. What I can also extrapolate is that this took a heavy toll. Some people can help others and leave it behind at the end of the day. I don’t think she could. You can become a vessel for other people’s distress and emotions, hanging on to them and eventually drowning.

Depression is a killer full stop

 

 

Mentor training

Last night, I went to the first refuge Mentor training session. The programme is part of a course called New Beginnings, a series of courses that start for women when they come into Refuge, and continue when they leave. The need for this course was envisioned by an extraordinary woman called Judith who works with the women in a couple of Refuges. She noticed that while women are in Refuge, they are supported with these courses but when they leave, they end up struggling with loneliness and isolation. She believes that if they have someone who walks beside them, it makes their journey that much less lonely, that we can become a community within a community.

I was so inspired by what she had to say. As were all of us in that room last night. She is passionate and heartfelt, and I could see that she loves the work she does, loves the women she works with.

There were 11 of us there last night (including 3 of the Refuge staff who will not be filling in as mentors). Christina believes she can get 10-12 women who have left refuge in the last year to engage with the mentoring process. Once the programme has started, there will be a need for more mentors as we go along, so if you didn’t make it last night (and there 2 of us who were twitter aunties) then there is always that opportunity to take it up, if you so wish.

Last night we shared our stories, not for the sake of it, but as an exercise in learning to listen to others speak – really listen. Read between the lines, hear not what they were saying but what they were not saying. Some of the mentors come from a similar background to me, many of them share faith as a base, some of them come from backgrounds of abuse and have, indeed, been in refuge at different points in their lives. All of us have big hearts and a drive to work in our communities.

Next week, we’ll be looking, I believe, at the expectations of us and what to do with some of the stories we will be told in the course of our mentorship. I feel like I’ve already served as somewhat of a mentor to some of the women in refuge, in a very small way. Having said that, I am aware that becoming part of someone’s life in a meaningful way is an onerous task, and not taken on lightly. It requires a large degree of committment. I think I’m up to the task. We shall see.

Know this, though. That if you decide to do this, to mentor a woman who has left refuge, at some point in the future that it is likely that you will be given more than you recieve. It is ever the way when you are involved in any sort of community work. A beautiful thing.

What the Refuge offers.

The refuge provides a safe and supportive environment for women and children who have experienced domestic violence.  This provides families time for healing and recovery.  Support is given to families through advocacy with WINZ, legal advice, HNZ, and other support services.  Programmes include:

  • New Beginnings Women’s Course: Personal self development
  • Parenting Course
  • Financial Literacy and Budgeting Course
  • Healthy Living Gardening and Cooking Skills
  • Little Voices Children’s Program
  • New Beginnings Community Drop In Centre and Mentoring

New Beginnings Womens Programme:

The group work in the programme is designed to constantly build into the women a sense of worth and well-being that ultimately empowers them to stand up and take real control of their own lives, making better decisions and choices.  In the process of looking at skills, self-care and understanding, the emphasis constantly comes back to them as unique and valued people, with the belief that as they know their own value they will make sure that others also know and respond to that.

Topics cover: Journaling, Relationships, Healthy choices, Trust, Respect, Abuse, Anger.

Little Voices Childrens Programme

A special programme for children who have experienced violence within their families.  The aims of the programme include assisting children to express emotions in dealing with the effects of domestic violence, develop a healthy self esteem, strengthen family bonds, and help children with strategies and techniques to cope with anxiety or anger.

Ages 5-12 years old.

New Beginnings Community Programme

A weekly drop in centre for women and children who have left the refuge and are living in the community.

Life skills are taught ranging from baking, flax weaving, poetry reading and more.

Mentoring is also provided linking trained mentors to support community mums in their journey long term.

The holiday house

Sometimes, I think ( I know) that the issue of domestic violence, and the work we’re doing at the Refuge, are very scary to people.  How can you help? What can you do?

Remember this: violence is scary. These women are not. They are ordinary people, like you and me. Some of them have had rough as gut lives, some of them have not. Some of them have known nothing but violence, some of them are surprised by it.

Either way, whatever way they get into Refuge, by the time they get there, they’re ready for a break. And that’s what the Refuge provides for them. A break away, a respite, a rest before they start their new lives (or in some cases, resume their old ones).

And a rest is as good as a holiday. A’s kids call the Refuge the holiday house. Because they go camping every Christmas, they associate the building and the way they’re living in it, with holiday cabins.

That’s a pretty great thought, isn’t it?

Because it kind of is like that. It’s communal living, and there’s these large grounds with big beautiful trees, and an amazing playground. There’s other kids to play with. So I guess for some of the kids it is like being on holiday (and also people give them stuff, so it’s also like Christmas quite a lot, which is pretty remarkable, you must admit.)

It’s not a scary place, and these aren’t scary people. They are brave and beautiful people finding their way through, or discovering for the first time what it’s like to have a bit of peace.

I won’t sugar coat it. Things need doing around the place, and they’re getting done, bit by bit. But overall it’s somewhere you can find a cup of tea and a sit down quite enjoyable.

It’s not exactly Club Tropicana but it’s not Colditz either. So go ahead, become an Aunty and find a bit of joy where you thought there might be none.

Just like at a holiday camp.

Inaugural #twitteraunties meeting. 15 February 2014

Yesterday, a group of people came together to celebrate being Aunties. Not Aunties in the traditional sense. These people care about women and children they have never met. I hope to change that somewhat. That having been said it’s largely a relationship that appears to have one side.

I can assure you that it is not.  The women that are the benefactors of  your graciousness and kindness are appreciative beyond words. Every thing, every gestures, builds them up. Kris and I make sure they know that is true.

And no one is more an Aunty to these women and children than Christina Teikamata, the Refuge co-ordinator, and Karen, and Trish who work there too.  She loves her “mummies” and seeks to do all she can to provide for them whilst they are there, and when they leave she is there too.

So what we are doing is reinforcing Christina’s efforts. Providing an invaluable base of support and resources, from which she can draw when needed. (Which is every day).

And so to last night’s meeting. I was pretty stunned at the love in that room. Poor old H1 and H2 were a bit embarrassed ( H2 said “that was AWKWARD”) but also heartened and inspired, lifted up by all that love and encouragement. And also the knowledge that other people have been where they are – people who are not poor, who are not brown. People who’ve done it, and they can do it too. People who assured them that this is the first steps to their new life. A life without violence, a life where they get to love themselves, and choose who shares that life with them, reinforced by more knowledge about what’s possible, and what it means to be safe, in all senses of the word.

The people who came to the meeting offered a range of skills, which they may not be aware they have. At the moment, we’re all feeling things out. What needs doing, and what does not. What works, and what does not. And as Christina said, if something doesn’t work, we just need to tweak it.

These were also people who are very brave – none more so than H1 and H2 who were pretty anxious about the whole thing. Having said that, I felt it was important that those who want to be Aunties have more than a passing connection with people they are helping. So that you can see that this is not a thankless effort, that people are being touched and affected, by what we are doing. That connections being made is about reciprocity, about understanding that this is not a one way street. Being so involved with the Refuge, for me, has helped me in more ways than I have helped them, to be sure.

To ensure those connections hold, and are strengthened, Christina and I want to make the meetings a monthly thing.

The first mentoring sessions – for women who have left Refuge – are on the 20th and 27th of February.  Two weeks afterwards, we will have the next Aunties meeting. I hope you can be there, and add your voice to the growing army of us who seek to speak for these women and children at a time when they cannot speak for themselves.

M’s story.

When I published the other womens’ stories, stories in my own voice, M was really disappointed not to have had the opportunity and said she would like to write something for you all to read. To impress upon you why the Refuge is so important, and to give voice to those you are all helping. 

She wrote it a while ago, and I only just read it this morning. Sitting next to her, at the dining table at the Refuge, I cried for her. And she cried for herself. “I know” she said to me. “It’s ugly”. We read it side by side, and hugged each other. This may not affect you as personally because you don’t know her, but I want you to hear her voice. It’s an important one.

So here it is. M’s story, or at least a small part of it. In her own words. (And I didn’t pay her to write the final paragraph…..).

 

Hello to everyone,
 
I am writing about my story from a woman that has been scared, treated like a slave, all my self esteem taken away from, beaten till I was black and blue, but also out of all the terrible things that have happened to me, I still have lots of love.  Sometimes I use dto think, why me and my  5 children, but someone said to me one day and recently, when is it going to stop?  So I had the courage to leave and came to the Refuge.  
 
I was scared and very unsure what I was doing but in time I got to know the women and started to open myself and started to trust in people that wanted to trust me.  It actually hit me more when there was other stories at the refuge, and I realised I wasn’t alone in this big wide world of ours and we surely take things for granted.  I am healing and still hurting inside but in time I hope, no I know, I will over come this.  Without the help and support of the wonderful Women’s Refuge and the support of the public, I wouldn’t think we would be survivors today.  I also would like to thank  the women that are in the same situation’s as I. Because of the night talks and crying we all share, I have made platforms of strengths that encourage me to say, “I am superwoman.”
 
I also would like to thank my superwoman and angel, Jackie.  I can’t go a day without thinking about this lovely soul.  I feel so blessed and fortunate to know and have this wonderful person in my life.  She has guts and this personality that in time I will have.  She shows strength like she can kung fu you and man you mess with her, look out…..hahahhaha and she has a dog to prove it.  She works so hard and I want to be like her.