I have been working in domestic violence shelters for many years and recently something happened at the shelter where I was hosting the Art of Change personal development program.
I have witnessed it many times over the years and it can be summed up in two words.
Compassion and Generosity.
We were getting ready to start, coffee cups filled, table ready with the art supplies and Mandala templates when a staff member came in with two large boxes.
“These have been donated. Take what you would like.”
Before our eyes a knitted rainbow appeared, scarves, gloves, knitted hats and teddy bears, lovingly stitched together by a group of women who care. The teddys are called trauma Teddy’s and are given as a comfort bear for children at the shelter who are coping with losing their home and the trauma of domestic violence.
The knitting volunteers care about their sisters and daughters and mothers in shelters and they care about their children.
I have seen this happen many times over the years.
Knitted blankets, baby clothes, donations of books, personal care products (thank you to the generosity of The Body Shop over many years) clothes and kitchen goods all make their way through the shelter doors..
There are the mobile creche volunteers who donate their time to women’s shelters so we can have child care during the groups and at Christmas time hampers, food vouchers and invitations to community Christmas parties.
Sometimes there will be tickets to a show donated to a shelter, cinema passes and free gym membership because people who are in the community really want to make a difference and offering their resources is a way of saying:
My heart feels for you, I want to contribute to your recovery and quality of life if I can.
At a women’s housing organisation their Christmas party event included a huge donation of electrical goods and household products from a company that put “action” to their vision of corporate contribution .
When I am invited to speak at forums that are often concerned with statistics and data and the current policies and funding issues, I emphasise that in amongst those things that define the every day business of a domestic violence shelter, there is also a profound demonstration that the media myth of our society as being uncaring and indifferent is simply not true. I have also met many men who contribute to the gardening, house maintenance, who offer their time as Father Christmas and others who support their wives and partners who work in domestic violence shelters.
I was involved in a facebook conversation lately with a group of women who said they wanted to do something to assist women in shelters, they didn’t have much money, they march and write letters but they’d like to do something practical. I told them that one of the most inexpensive but much needed resources in women’s shelters are nappies and personal care products especially sanitary products . *Make sure to call the shelter first because storage space can be a problem for contributions that arrive in bulk.
Their response was immediate and generous.
These things make a huge difference in shelter settings as does a packet of colouring pencils and Mandalas for colouring for women who are under enormous pressure and experiencing not only stress but a sense of confinement behind the locked gates of a safe house.
You may not know this about domestic violence shelters where, paradoxically women who have often been treated very poorly and are at great risk are recognised by others as deserving of love and care and nurturing and it is a very humbling thing to witness.
I just wanted to share this today because the image of that beautiful knitted rainbow that spilt across the table and the smiles and joy of women who are sorting through so much chaos in the early days of leaving a violent relationship, was too sacred not to share.
The following poster is based on one of the Mandalas in The Big Girls Little Colouring Book . The medARTation colouring book for women book is available on my website. It has its origins in the art work I created for the Art of Change personal development groups in women’s shelters and in 2012, at the request of a small group of wonderful women, I created the book so that medARTation process ifs available for all women everywhere.
This is the link to a previous blog post #WhyIStayed