If you’ve been thinking about supporting issues pertaining to violence against women, one of the best times to start helping your local domestic violence is during the holiday season. With The Pixel Project’s contribution to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence being its new “16 for 16” blogging campaign, this blog post brings you 16 ways to help your local Domestic Violence Shelter and will hopefully give you a jumpstart to assist the needs of a local shelter in your area.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Center for Victims of Crime, one in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Women are abused emotionally, financially, and physically in many of these situations. Abusers create an environment of fear and intimidation using verbal threats and physical violence, as well as controlling the financial resources. This makes it very difficult for anyone being abused to flee.
Domestic violence shelters are so important to help women break free from their horrid conditions and offer an environment that helps them stay free, as well as without fear of murder. One-third of female homicide victims are women killed by an intimate partner, according to a fact sheet by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in the United States. Unfortunately, this statistic is so high because many women are killed as they try to leave their abusers.
Having somewhere safe to hide from their abuser is VERY vital to women of abuse. Many times women leave quickly with their children while their partner is away. They take nothing more than the clothes on their backs in their desperate attempt to get away before being seen. Shelters are wonderful havens that provide food, shelter, clothing, and victim assistance to those seeking refuge.
With the economic downturn and the need for more donated funds, battered women shelters across the globe struggle to do a lot with little funds, while being understaffed and having more and more women to serve. That’s why your help is even more important to stock the shelter, raise needed funds, and increase employee and victim morale.
Volunteers and supporters are always needed and there should be a domestic violence shelter in almost every county or city around the globe. Call your local shelter and see the best way that you can contribute to their work, or suggest one of the following as a way you would be willing to help.
Written by Erin Al-Mehairi; Edited by Tim Busbey and Regina Yau
Women many times leave their homes very quickly without packing. All they take with them are their children and the clothes on their back. A great way to assist would be clothing or superstore gift cards (so they can buy correct sizes) or offer to personally shop for them if they cannot leave the shelter. Having even an extra change of clothing when they have nothing would help and for survivors who are ready to leave the shelter, gift cards to help them get professional work attire is a great way to help them with the process of securing a job and building a new, independent life.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 2: Hygiene Items
Hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, toothbrushes and paste, tampons and pads, diapers, and wipes are always items needed by women who have left their homes quickly. Your local shelter may already have a list of their most needed items. A great way to give back anytime of the year is to host a fund-raiser with your group of friends or club and see how many items you can donate to the shelter collectively.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 3: Group Collections
If you belong to a group, pick one particular item and have members bring them to meetings or get-togethers all throughout the year. For instance, many local, regional and state sects of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation in the U.S. gather flip-flops for women all year and take them to their local shelters. Your group could choose one main item and have members bring them to meetings, events, or even do a special theme surrounding it to make it more fun and bring in more donations.
Bake cookies or goodies and take them to your local shelter for the employees, as well as those living in the shelter, for the holidays or the weekend. Employees will appreciate you thinking of them for all their hard work and women and children in the shelter will be thankful for a homemade or special treat to brighten their day.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 5: Gifts for Staff
Purchase holiday gifts for your local domestic violence shelter staff. A massage gift certificate, a restaurant gift card, a bath and body gift basket, or anything that embodies a relaxing time for them for all their long and tireless hours.
The Pixel Project currently has a fund-raising option with Spa Fundraiser in which you can purchase exclusive “Purple Pamper Package” gift certificates good for a mini spa pampering session. They are just US$25 (valued at US$150)! Funds go towards the The Pixel Project’s Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal Campaign; however, the charitable impact is furthered if you buy to donate to one of the thirty (30) women’s shelters who signed up to receive them.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 6: Work at a Hotline
Check and see if your local shelter or rape crisis center has a domestic violence or rape crisis hotline that is in need of volunteers. Since these lines are generally open 24 hours a day, every day, they many times utilize volunteers to keep costs down. Usually volunteers have to go through a training course and then commit to work several times a week answering the phones. You have to be willing to do the training and work your schedule, but this can be a very rewarding way to offer your assistance right on the front lines, so to speak.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 7: Write a Newsletter
If you prefer writing, perhaps you could offer your assistance to do a local shelter’s quarterly or monthly newsletter. If you can’t do the entire layout and design, or the organization prefers to do this themselves, offer to write a few articles a month on a topic surrounding women’s rights. You could also offer to fold, seal, and mail the newsletter.
If you are artistic, offer to teach free lessons or host craft times at the shelter for the women or kids. This will help them take their mind of stressful situations and provide the children with some much needed entertainment. Or offer to help create and/or stock an art or craft area for the shelter by providing paper, paint, play dough, scrap fabric, glue, glitter, recycled materials such as glass jars and bottles, plastic tubs, newspaper, and more.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 9: Clean
If cleaning is your forte, you could call and see if they could use a hand cleaning donated items, shelving, rooms, laundry, or just overall organizing their space. If you enjoy interior decorating, you could buy new items and work your magic to create a home-life atmosphere of tranquility and peace.
Way to Help Your local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 10: Cook Meals or Donate Food
This is a suggestion from a young male volunteer aged 12, who loves to cook. One of the things you might equate with home and safety is a good home-cooked meal. Call your local shelter and find out about food donations. Do they have a pantry they must keep filled for the guest to cook their own meals? Offer to run a drive for much needed items at a time of year when the pantry gets low. Ask if you could host a cooking class teaching the women how to cook nutritious, yet quick meals for her family. Teaching a class where cooking is done utilizing pantry-type items is a way to ensure families are eating right while under stress and, if needed, teach essential life skills that will help them in their new future.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 11: Share and Help from Your Experiences
Ask your local shelter what volunteer options are available for peer-to-peer support services. If you are a survivor yourself, you could offer valuable emotional support to those going through the process. Many times, leaders of the domestic violence support groups are volunteers and that could be YOU! These women are very scared and need a helping hand and an attentive ear to work through their emotional journey.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 12: Community Education
Although one of the purposes and missions of any domestic violence organization should be community education, many times they just can’t do as much as they would like due to budgets and staffing. Possibly, you could volunteer time to take their materials to various service groups and organizations in your area and talk about the mission, goals, and needs of the shelter, while gaining awareness for domestic violence issues in your community. You could contact your local library and ask to put up a display on domestic violence awareness, with information on resources that are available in your community such as your local shelter.
If your children would like to be involved here is an idea from one of our 8-year-old female supporters—for your next birthday party invite your friends and have them bring with their gift, or in place of a gift to you, something for the children at the domestic violence shelter. Good ideas include coloring books, crayons, books, puzzles, blocks, stuffed animals, gift cards, or whatever you think another child would enjoy since he/she had to leave all her favorite items behind.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 14: Help with Childcare
If you love children, your assistance with child care could be greatly appreciated by both the shelter and the families. If your local shelter does not have the funds to employ a full-time childcare staff, and most don’t, then you could offer some of your time to care for the children at the shelter in a group at a certain day or time, or work with a single mom as she schedules meetings with lawyers, needs time for paperwork, housing appointments, and the list goes on. Sometimes they might not be able to take the children to their regular daycare due to a stalking partner so childcare while the mom works is also important. Leaving an old life and starting a new one can be time consuming and confusing and you could help ease that by assisting in the care of her children.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 15: Plan a Fundraiser
Put on a fund-raiser such as a 5K run, a bake sale (watch every year for The Pixel Project’s annual “Paint It Purple” campaign, during which time you can bake cupcakes and sell them, splitting the money between your local organization and The Pixel Project), a bazaar, a dinner and dance, or a silent auction. Put on your creative thinking cap and come up with something unique that will work in your community to raise awareness for domestic violence and your local shelter’s work, while also raising much needed funds to support their efforts.
Way to Help Your Local Domestic Violence Shelter Number 16: Give!
Last, but not least, just simply DONATE. If you don’t have much free time to spend now in your life, but still want to help, donate money and gift cards for many different stores. Donate any old cell phones you have. Check your local shelters list of much-needed items to see what will make the most impact. Don’t forget the families at Christmas or holiday times, as that is when items, gifts, and clothing are needed even more.
Whatever you decide to do, or can afford, your local domestic violence shelter is always in need of volunteers to help keep them running. Helping women of abuse, and children from those homes, can be very hard and grueling work, but is so important and in turn, can be so rewarding. You will be helping to change lives, no matter how much time or money you can invest.