It occurs to me that many of you are helping the women at the Refuge but you don’t really know much about who you’re helping. And the cast of characters changes with some regularity. So I thought I’d tell you a bit about some of the women in Refuge at the moment. I have their full permission (the phone was passed around to each one).
Four of the mothers originally gave permission for me to share some of their story, but one has decided she’d rather not – M was out this evening and H1’s story is not one that I can tell.
I honour their trust in me.
H2 has had problems with drugs and alcohol. She and her 3 kids left her partner a few months ago – she says they can’t seem to be in the same room as each other without fighting. (According to Chris, he is very violent, and H2 has gone back and forth in the past.) She takes the kids round there in the weekends, and he’s not violent to her at the moment (she gets in and out quickly) but she doesn’t let him know where the Refuge is. She’s getting her life back on track – she told me about a course she’s doing that is giving her strategies for staying sober – and I know that having such a great Xmas has buoyed her up. I have noticed that KA, her older daughter, and her son L have gained a lot of confidence. When I first met them, they wouldn’t speak and were very shy. Now, they are full of chatter and laughter, like their younger sister TP.
C’s husband is in prison awaiting his trial. He stands accused of raping his daughter, K. C wanted to get out of the house while he was in prison, and get her 6 children to safety. She has a son in prison, and his girlfriend M is staying with them – M is K’s best friend; her major supporter; and stalwart companion. The girls stick together very closely. They both want to work in retail, and they both want to sit their drivers licences. At the moment, they rarely leave the Refuge. C is adjusting to starting a new life, albeit a peaceful one. None of her family, apart from a nephew in Christchurch, know where they all are, including one of her daughters who chose not to go into refuge with them. C is a writer. Has, in fact, started writing about everything that has happened. She is a gentle woman and very confused about what has happened. I know it will take her a long time to understand everything.
A has lived in the Refuge for almost a year. She was pregnant with her youngest child when she arrived – I was first made aware of her in April and, in fact, A is where this all started. Because she arrived with nothing, and had no support, Christina was anxious to get her sorted before the baby came. J is now 6 months old. and A has two other small kids. B is 3, and a real character – addicted to shoes, and pretty things. W is almost 2, and a real charmer. He enjoys being naked. A awaits the Immigration Department’s ruling on whether she gets to stay in NZ – she’ll hear about that at the end of this month. Because she’s not a NZ resident, the Refuge has been emotionally and financially supporting her since she came to them.
All of these women have stories that need to be heard, and their voices are most often not. They are poor, brown, and women – three strikes against them – and are the object of much judgement and misunderstanding. I sit and talk with them at length, and understand that they are incredibly brave, and extraordinarily resourceful when given the chance. It’s just that no-one gives them the chance, until they get to Refuge.
I hope that you now understand why I do what I do. Working for these women, and advocating for them, is a natural extension of my teaching work, and it’s something I want to look into doing a bit more in the next few years.
I also hope that their stories inspire you to help them, to get amongst it. I find knowing them really rewarding, and I know you would, too.