At a time when many Canadian families are getting together to share in the spirit of giving, some women are fleeing abusive homes to spend Christmas in a shelter.
Often, when leaving home, these women have little more than the clothes on their backs and a desire not to be found by the person they left behind.
That sort of story has resonated strongly with a group of Surrey and Delta women who have banded together for the past five years to offer help.
Gurpreet Bains, a teacher at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, has been involved in Women Helping Women for the past three years. She, along with dozens of friends, co-workers and students have collected and delivered 561 care packages to shelters and women’s housing this holiday season in the hopes of brightening up another woman’s day.
“For them a Christmas gift is full of goodies that just cheers them up and shows someone cares about them,” she said.
The packages contain some of the feminine products that can be difficult to come by while living in temporary housing. Many of them are simple things like make up, hair products, soaps/lotions, pyjamas, facial products – anything that will help give a woman a lift, explained Bains.
It was a generic pink razor that reportedly brought a young girl to tears in the first year of Women Helping Women that inspired the group to continue expanding their efforts.
This year, Bains enlisted the help of parents and students at L.A. Matheson to donate 20 local Christmas hampers to shelters in need. She said many of her students really ran with the idea and began spreading the word amongst their friends.
“It kind of became a students-helpingstudents initiative in the school,” she said. L.A. Matheson English teacher Lorraine
Williams said it’s encouraging to see women supporting other women, especially since there’s often a competitiveness in society that’s pits women against one another.
“One of the things that struck me is that women are often the givers for everyone else, going without so that their kids will have a better Christmas. They put other people first and finally they’re getting something. And I think that was a nice warm feeling for me,” she said.
Sukhi Sahota, a 2013 grad from the high school, came back to her alma mater to donate a full bag of makeup. As somebody who knows how good a woman can feel with the right makeup, Sahota said she knew it was important to help.
“We take so much for granted and we don’t always appreciate the little things. For me it was, it’s Christmas time and someone will get that bag and it will put a smile on their face,” she said.
Anna Brand, a member of the Parent Advisory Committee, said she volunteers at Surrey Urban Mission and has seen firsthand the importance of donations. “So I know there’s a great need for this type of stuff. There’s a lot of women that totally appreciate this,” she said.
Women Helping Women 2014 has delivered 561 care packages to 18 shelters and transition homes across Vancouver, Richmond Delta, Surrey, White Rock and Abbotsford. Local charities include Deltassist, Surrey Women’s Resource Centre, Virginia Sam Women’s Shelter and Evergreen Women’s Shelter.
Go on Facebook and search for Women Helping Women South Delta for photographs and updates of this group.