Welcome to The Aunties – I’m Jackie. I’m the Aunty In Charge. If you’re curious about what I/we do, it is simply this. I am the interface between a number of refuges in Auckland, and a group of people called The Aunties whose primary focus is to provide the material needs for women who reside in those places. Two women’s refuges are our particular focus, and have been for the last four years. We also help women when they leave the refuge (s) with material needs, and advocacy, as and when they request it.
In March 2013, I started helping out the refuge co-ordinator to get some needs met. In October 2013, after a bereavement, I sought the help of some other women and we have grown from there. I visit the main refuge every Thursday afternoon – I am not paid by the Refuge, I am not a volunteer, officially I am simply a donor. Or as K likes to call me: the Donations Co-ordinator. We’ll go with that. (I have other unofficial things I do but that’s off the record!) This is now my full time job – they call it following your passion, I believe. And my passion is getting the women what they need. So what do I do apart?
- I collect stuff. This is pretty fun. I drive all over Auckland, and give hugs to lots of lovely people.
- I go to our primary refuge once a week, on a Thursday afternoon, with specific needs. I spend time talking to the women, meeting new women when they arrive, getting to know them. I catch up on the goings on of old friends, and the staff. We all have a lot of love for each other, and this refuge is my second home.
- I unload the stuff at the storage unit.
- I collect the mail and parcels from the mail box.
- I buy gift cards and vouchers.
- I buy storage supplies as we need them.
- I drive women, who have left the refuge, around if needs be. To appointments, or to take them shopping.
- I sort out stuff, and drive to the Shine offices, and to Te Whānau Rangimarie with stuff that they need.
- I advocate for women, who have left the refuge, when needed – with police or government departments, whatever they ask me to do.
- I have meetings with people to talk about ideas they may have. At the moment, I have a scheme in conjunction with one of the Aunties, that she has been trying to implement for years, around getting women cars when they need them.
- I do all the social media for the Aunties – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.( I spend an average of 3 hours a day on this stuff).
- I answer emails asking for stuff, or offering stuff, or from people who are interested in what we do.
- I sit and chat with women – both in the refuge and out – and listen to their stories
- I pay bills for women over the phone, organise car repairs, house moving and whatever else they need – haircuts, storage, you name it, I do it!
All of that may sound alot, and it is. But I couldn’t do any of it, not a bit of it, without the money that people so kindly give, and the Aunties who give me not only stuff, but huge amounts of support. As I said, I am currently doing this work voluntarily -I am not working full time anymore, so I am paying my own way, as it were. In the future, very shortly, we hope to apply for funding for the work I do.
The coordinator, and staff, and I have built up a strong relationship over time. I take their lead in all things, and there is little we don’t talk about. I also have a strong relationship with the women, and with members of the refuge Trust Board. They allow me to keep on doing what I do, and it is solely by their grace that I have been allowed to become a firm member of that refuge family.
The refuge is also part of the FVIARS team – Family Violence Intervention and Response – and we provide them with grocery vouchers for families they encounter on weekly visits, as well as any other needs they may have.
With this many people coming, we go through everything very quickly. The coordinator also helps other refuges out, and it is four of those refuges that have come onboard to use our services, recently.
So when you help us, the reality is that you are helping a great number of people. And we’ve tried to make it all really simple. This is a grassroots effort to support one refuge, and this vision has expanded. .
I am available for public speaking. All fees go to the Aunties bank account.
The Aunties vision statement:
The Aunties are a group of people who for various reasons – empathy, experience, and a sense of social justice – seek to provide support and be kaitiaki to the vulnerable, particularly those who have experienced domestic violence.
The Aunties believe everyone has the right to be safe, to have shelter, to be fed, to be loved, to dream, to read, to write, to have their say, and to be heard. Where any of those things are missing, the Aunties mission is to help provide them – the practical things, and also in terms of advocacy and pastoral care.
The Aunties believe in manaakitanga – protecting to mana of the people they help so that they can find their way towards living independently, and with dignity and joy.
We thank you for your compassion and care.
You can contact me @whaeapower on Twitter
If you would like to join my mailing list, and hear news about what specific women at the refuge need, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org