Who would have thought in the year 2017 women, and in many instances men, continue to be entwined in abusive relationship situations, in environments that should be caring, supportive and safe. However we continue to strive for no-tolerance as society has begun to talk about domestic and family violence and campaigns are in action. Families have access to evolving support systems and safe havens, a work in progress albeit not fast enough.
May is the annual Domestic “Family Violence Prevention month” in Australia and our Friends with Dignity held their annual Brisbane High Tea on 21 May.
This national not-for- profit organisation is run by hard working compassionate women and men who provide assistance to men, women and children displaced by domestic violence.
Founded by Manuela Whitford (former director of Assist A Sista) the dedicated team of volunteers work with registered referral agencies. They turn houses that begin with a blank space and turn them into warm welcoming sanctuaries for people escaping domestic violence. They give people back their dignity by way of a home to call their own.
SheBrisbane was generously invited to share their annual fundraiser High Tea with Friends. And a fundraiser it was as once again I witnessed the generosity with high quality gifts up for auction or to be raffled. This is why I always arrive with cash in hand.
From the time I stepped out of the lift into the foyer of the Sky Room at Brisbane’s Convention and Entertainment Centre and made my way to the registration desk, I was warmly welcomed by Board members and volunteers, people I had never met. I could only imagine their same warmth and caring, albeit it more powerful, would be gifted to men and women who cry out for help. The ones who have needed to flee their homes in desperation to protect themselves and their children to find a safe haven in their sanctuary, Friends with Dignity.
I was greeted with the mandatory glass of champers and food was amass for a high tea. No one left the building feeling hungry. Platters of warm pastries, tasty cheesy fingers, mini fruit custard tarts to die for and other tempters graced our plates for regular consumption Balveen Ajimal from Grace Street Consulting was the MC. The visible & behind the scenes event manager and COO, Zoe Scharenguivel was constantly on the move to ensure the smooth running of speeches, fashion parade, raffles and co-ordination of food. Zoe’s passion was evident as she choreographed the afternoon with Manuela Whitford, Friends with Dignity, CEO.
There were a number of guest speakers but what struck me the most was the statistics. Friends with Dignity had YTD established 223 sanctuaries, attended to 148 urgent requests and 28 for little friends. Sanctuaries are provided to survivors that includes household items used to set up and furnish a new home. Urgent requests work on a time critical basis, they have less than 48 hours to provide refuge for survivors and to provide crisis packs and personal care items. Little Friends is there to ensure child survivors are not disadvantaged in the transition to a safe environment and are supplied with items of comfort and educational support.
I wasn’t expecting a fashion parade with an international theme, consequently I was fully entertained as the models paraded the catwalk in costumes from their country of origin to the beat 70’s/80’s music. There were some spectacular outfits and beautifully coloured fabrics proudly draped their bodies, symbolic of their birth right.
As always with any fundraiser one’s network expands. I sat next to a young man who is passionate about his own fundraising events & “My Big” and “My Sweat for Their Tears”. He participates in long distance bike rides to raise funds and was attending the high tea through another cycling colleague who works with Friends with Dignity.
We really are one big family and there for each other. This is evident as Friends with Dignity have a powerful motto that enables women and men to “StepUp-SpeakOut- Support”. They are there to assist survivors of domestic and family violence to rebuild their lives with dignity, purpose and hope.
It was evident the day was a success as both attendees and workers were full of energy. It possibly was due to the fact that on this day we knew that someone out there, sadly, will soon need a sanctuary and Friends with Dignity will be ready and willing.