CASWA'S Gift Project Update
The reality is women, children and young people who experience domestic abuse may have little in the way of basic, material possessions. This can form part of the abuse cycle and can happen for many reasons:
- Perpetrators may use financial control as a means to control women, children and young people, for example providing a strict, minimal allowance, which limits ability to purchase basic items. This may result in owning few, old or worn possessions – this is also a control tactic.
- Perpetrators may destroy, hide, damage, confiscate or throw out material possessions as part of their cycle to intimidate, threaten, devalue and control women, children and young people.
- Material possessions may be part of a reward and punishment structure (“You’re not getting your phone because you didn’t do what I told you”), may be closely linked with worth (“You don’t deserve this”, “You’re not good enough for nice clothes”) or society’s judgement (“People will think you’re a bad Mum if you go out looking like that”) as a means of control.
- When fleeing a relationship there may be no time, opportunity or ability to take basic, material items and possessions.
- Material possessions may be a triggering reminder of the trauma and abuse women, children and young people have experienced.
- Women being left in financial ruin or recovery following domestic abuse which means that material possessions simply cannot be afforded.
This is the reality facing many women, children and young people who experience domestic abuse.
Despite there being some excellent financial support available through charities and funds, as an organisation we felt an unmet gap in our service. We would have loved to be able to provide as part of our service a project to gift women, children and young people donations of basic necessities such as clothes, toiletries, etc, however co-ordinating the receipt, sorting, storing, collating, recording and giving of kind donations from our community to those we support required and deserved time, care and attention that we did not have. Though we were able to accept donations on an irregular, ad hoc basis and provide these to those in need, we were unable to coordinate an ongoing project as a small team. This changed, however, when our volunteer, Annie stepped in….
In August 2019, a friend approached Annie with a number of bags of children’s clothing, toys and a child’s seat. Annie chanced that what she was offered would be able to be used by the team and gifted to those supported by CASWA. She was right and between the team, new homes were found for the donations. Annie realised that there was the potential for a project.
“It was a rude awakening when I experienced this moment and realised that there was a vital unmet need in our community. As a result of this I decided to launch The Gift Project. The plan, that I will stock new or nearly new clothing, toiletries, linen, cots, toys, games and books for women, children and young people. Through family, friends and social media I have had amazing support, time and donations. All the items are on a data base and the CASWA domestic abuse specialists can contact me with their needs. I will box up the items and they will go out as a gift. It’s early days, but it has already been of service. I am delighted to be able to provide some help when I can. I have found my community and social media contacts to be unbelievably supportive and compassionate to the project and ultimately to the women and children”. – Annie, The Gift Project’s Volunteer Co-ordinator
To date Annie has provided somewhere in the region of 14 gift boxes to women, children and young people supported by CASWA. The team have been able to call upon the project when they have supported women, children or young people who have found themselves in need, due to financial hardship or fleeing from an abusive situation with very little in the way of basic material items. The impact on our team has been extremely positive – it has enabled us to provide much needed items, often in crisis situations.
“I supported a women who had experienced 15 years of physical abuse and coercive control. She fled the situation with her children with only what they were able to carry and were placed in local authority emergency accommodation. I accessed the gift project for Winter clothing for Mum and her children. The boxes were beautifully presented and contained various items of indoor and outdoor clothing, toiletries and some toys. Both mother and children were overwhelmed. The fact that most of the items were brand new with tags and were beautifully presented, went a long way in making this woman and her children feel valued”. – CASWA Domestic Abuse Specialist
A crucial part of the project is the request that any donated items be in “new” or “as new” condition. This may raise some eyebrows and may be faced with questions or criticism, but please consider the reasons at the start of this blog post about why women, children and young people may have so little. We are not simply being picky. Annie and the CASWA team are mindful and clear about the messages which may be communicated to a recipient if something old, worn or damaged is gifted. We work with women, children and young people who have faced domestic abuse. A core part of recovery from this abuse and trauma is re-building self-esteem and self-worth. We believe that what we gift to people through this project must communicate to people that they are worthy, they matter, they deserve these gifts and that we (and the community who provides the donations) recognise this. The simple act of giving and gifting something new or in nearly new condition is an extremely empowering message.
“All the women mentioned how lovely the presentation and contents of the boxes were. To be honest I think they were expecting a bag with cheap stuff but they were all amazed at what was in the box and how it was presented. The parcels definitely made a difference to each person that received them.” – CASWA Domestic Abuse Specialist
‘I am absolutely delighted and happy with the items. I never get gifts, it feels like Christmas.’ A women supported by CASWA’s Women’s Service.
“I gave one woman the box just before Christmas and she was nearly in tears when she opened it…I found out that that was the only gift that she received at Christmas” – CASWA Domestic Abuse Specialist
Not only have service users benefitted from this project, they have been inspired. There is often a desire to give something back and through this project, some service users have kindly donated items that they have created, for example: crocheted items of clothing.
Annie has now been running The Gift Project for 10 months and this volunteer week we want to recognise and thank her for her voluntary contributions to our organisation. Annie has volunteered with us for a few years now and has hugely contributed to our awareness raising efforts through delivering our promotional leaflets, posters and stickers throughout the area. Annie’s time, dedication and care to all her volunteering, but specifically The Gift Project, makes the gift project what it is – an invaluable and empowering project which powerfully adds to the support available to women, children and young people and meets a previously unmet need at CASWA.
Our team this volunteer week want to say to Annie – you are wonderful and you are appreciated…THANK YOU!
To find out more about The Gift Project, please visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/thegiftprojectsutherland/