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Why the wellbeing of women is non-negotiable

Why the wellbeing of women is non-negotiable

20 February 2020

Carolyn Clark has been a Board member since 2009 and a volunteer since the early 1990s. In 2019 she received an Order of Australia (OAM) for services to women and the community.

Carolyn is the chairperson of the SHM Women for Women Committee, which is dedicated to providing financial support to the Women’s House.

To mark International Women’s Day on Sunday, 8 March, Carolyn reflects on her journey as a volunteer at the Women’s House.

When I first arrived at the Woman’s House 17 years ago it was predominantly used by street workers. Today, we open the door to women of all walks of life who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of becoming homeless. They are seeking a multitude of services including food, clothing, counseling, medical and legal assistance and housing. Each woman is unique, but they all have one thing in common. Trauma.

The lives that I have encountered and the experiences that I have had are impossible to put into words. I was among the first group of volunteers that worked at the Women’s House. The Women’s House is a safe and supportive open house where women are provided with a meal and warm welcome. It was very clear from day one that the women we met were starved of kindness. In my first year at the Women’s House, we organised a series of photographic portrait sessions. We washed hair, we applied makeup, we did nails and we were the loving and caring friends that some of the women had never had. A friend of ours took beautiful black and white portraits of the women. The portraits were gifts for the women and for the children that they had often given up. It was humbling.

Over the years, you could find me singing karaoke with a wooden spoon, making lunch for 50, whipping up a birthday cake, comforting a crying baby or a crying mother, planting flowers, listening to dreams, joining in art therapy (not very well!), massaging tired shoulders or just being that sister, daughter or friend that someone needed. I am incredibly lucky to have been able to play my part and to witness what the Women’s House can achieve with a community of women behind it.

But with everything in life we needed money. And so I gathered a group of friends around me and we started the Light Up a Life fundraising events to raise awareness.

When I first went to the Women’s House, no one had heard of it. No one understood that a stone’s throw away from their home there were women living on the street. But now they do. Over the last 17 years, we have raised a lot of money and made a lot of friends. Our supporter network has gone from zero to thousands. This support has made a tangible difference to the way the Women’s House caseworkers can change women’s lives for the better. And no matter how many times I speak about the Women’s House I am still completely stunned by the support that this continues to engender in others. And the raw emotion that it still engenders in me.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me on this journey. Without your support we could not keep the doors of the Women’s House open. For any service delivery provider like the Women’s House, partnering with the local community is key to its success. In the past year we have opened these doors over 7000 times. In the past year we have opened these doors over 7000 times. It is a staggering number but the wellbeing of women is non-negotiable.

Find out more about the Women's House

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Sacred Heart Mission respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we operate our services. We pay our respects to the ongoing living cultures of Aboriginal peoples, and to Elders past, present and future.
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