TENACIOUS GENEROSITY: Iris Jillett is on a mission to help Whakatane Woman’s Refuge Whanau Awhina. Photo Troy Baker D8866-06

IT may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a generous community to keep charities like Woman’s Refuge helping those in need.

Iris Jillet is one of the many who support the refuge and has made it her personal mission to help in any way she can.

When Iris visited her sister in Australia, she saw how she was organising toiletries for woman’s refuge and a few months later was on the phone to Whakatane Golf Club, where she is a member, organising a fundraising tournament.

“We made the entry for the tournament a cash donation and a grocery item, so I think we made $230 plus two big crates of groceries and lots of linens and other things. Everybody who came along was there to give, and even people who didn’t come on the day gave something for it, so it went really well.”

Wini Te Are, kaimahi (worker) at Whakatane Woman’s Refuge, says the effort and support Iris has shown to the organisation is just a ripple in the massive pond of generosity seen in the Eastern Bay.

“We have such a generous community; I don’t think people realise just how generous people are, and on a daily basis they are coming into our office with food or money or goods,” Wini says. “Without them we would be struggling.”

Initially, Iris thought she would help in a similar way to her sister, putting together toiletry care-packages. However after approaching Wini and her team, she realised furniture, linens, food, clothing, and donations were what was really needed.

“They said they had a group that already did toiletries, but we could help with other things. They often have to get new homes for the women, and often these women and children have left their previous homes with nothing, so they need absolutely everything.”

Having to leave their homes to guarantee their safety, and the safety of their children, can lead to lifetime worth of belongings being gone in an instant. The refuge supports women who face this reality, and people like Iris and all of those who choose to contribute understand that it is not easy.

“I don’t think people are aware of what their needs are and that the refuge is just kind of there when they need somewhere safe,” says Iris.

When Iris pitched the idea of a golf tournament as a fundraising event, Wini and her team thought it was completely out of the box, but were impressed by her tenacity.

“When Iris proposed that the golf club hold an event for us it was welcome because it gave us an opportunity to be in the frontline with people who we may not have been able to reach,” says Wini.

After a successful round on the green, Iris doesn’t plan on slowing down her support any time soon as she looks towards more long-term support.

Ruruhau Awhina Wahine, or Supporters of Womans Refuge, will be an email support group any member of the community can be a part of if they want to be kept in the loop with the needs of the refuge.

Iris has reached out to many local groups to get involved and is calling out for early spring clean casualties; furniture, clothing (women’s and children’s), bed linen, towels, household items, and children’s toys and games.

Wini told Eastern Bay Life that the true reward of working with these families is getting them back on their feet, especially as Christmas approaches, a particularly stressful time for them.

“One of the things about this work is that the families are so resilient. We are part of the transition for families to live a more successful life. That’s the reward of being in this work,” Wini says. “Our lead up to Christmas is really stressful for us and these kinds of things the community do give us a boost. There are a lot of people working to help families feel safe in this community.”

Future golf fundraisers could be on the agenda, but for now Iris wants to focus on the email support group.

If you would like to be a part of Ruruhau Awhina Wahine, Supporters of Woman’s Refuge, email Iris at suppwhkwmnsrefuge@gmail.com, and you can also make personal donations to the Whakatane Woman’s Refuge, located on Goulstone Road.

hazel.osborne@thebeacon.co.nz