Lottie Siaosi, family violence specialist at Te Whakaruruhau Waikato Women’s Refuge

Do you have second hand furniture that could benefit a local woman in need? Or good quality pre-loved clothing, bedding and linen to help a deserved family make a new home?

Waikato Women’s Refuge – Te Whakaruruhau is putting the call out for help this winter, to support women and children who have fled violent situations.

The refuge, which has helped more than 4000 Waikato women escape violent and abusive relationships in the past year, is asking for people to donate household items or volunteer to help victims of domestic violence set up their new homes.

“We need bedding and linen, furniture, kitchen items, irons, vacuum cleaners, clothing – all the things that people require when they need to set up a home from scratch,” says Lottie Siaosi, a family violence specialist at one of Waikato Women’s Refuge’s residential crisis houses.

“When families have to move out of their home due to domestic violence, often they have to get out fast and often they can’t go back,” says Siaosi, who has worked with families at the refuge for more than a decade. “We want to help give our women and children a fresh start, without the financial burden. If we can provide them items to help set up their new home, it is a huge help to them.”

The refuge’s crisis service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week providing advice and support to women and children escaping family violence. Their five Hamilton safe houses accommodate around 60 women and children a week. They also provide transitional accommodation and support to families as they look for a more permanent home.

Siaosi says refuge staff and their families often volunteer their time to help women and children move house, and could use more “helping hands” and “strong helpers” to facilitate packing and moving. “We pack down houses, put everything into storage, and then when a suitable home is found we then have to move a woman and her family into the new house,” says Siaosi. “We appreciate any ‘manpower’ or ‘womanpower’ we can get. We also need people with vehicles – moving vans or trailers – to volunteer to help our families move. Any help is gratefully received.”

Donations of toiletries, non-perishable grocery items and cash were also appreciated by the refuge. “Often when a woman is leaving in a hurry in the middle of the night, she comes to the safe house without even a tooth brush or tooth paste, and those are necessities for our families,” says Siaosi.

Waikato Women’s Refuge CEO Ruahine Albert says the organisation is grateful for the support it receives from the community. “Our services are unfortunately always in demand, and we rely on the generosity of funders, donors and volunteers to help women and children who need our help,” says Albert.

Waikato Women’s Refuge recently received $1105 from Z Eastside customers through the Z Good in the Hood fundraising campaign. “It’s wonderful to receive this cash injection, especially with the recent school holidays,” says Raewyn Curtis, team leader of the community crisis team for Waikato Women’s Refuge.

Curtis said there were about 21 children in their safe houses at the moment, and the extra money helped fund some special school holiday activities and outings, including trips to the hot pools and museum. “Any support we can give our mums and families means so much to them, and to us,” says Curtis.

The Waikato Women’s Refuge – Te Whakaruruhau was established in 1986 by a group of local Māori women as a response to family violence. Since then it has grown from a one-bedroom flat into five safe houses across Hamilton City and provides 24/7 crisis services as well as working with families to create long-term change in the domestic violence scene. Its approach is holistic and family-centred, and includes working with men who are willing to change.

The Waikato Women’s Refuge takes an integrated approach to family violence working with a variety of agencies, but it is not connected with the national women’s refuge collective.

People can contact the refuge to donate items, or to volunteer their time and support. Please phone 07 855 1569. This is also the refuge’s crisis line, and help is available 24 hours a day.

For more information see waikatowomensrefuge.co.nz or follow TeWhakaruruhau on Facebook and Instagram.

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