Community volunteers around Australia have been taking a stand against social injustices by raising awareness through practical action via the not-for-profit organisation, Friends With Dignity, since September, 2015. Founded by Manuela Whitford, Julia McKenna and Zoe Scharenguivel, Friends With Dignity is an active social movement that initiates change by raising awareness of the damaging effects to individuals affected, in particular, by domestic violence. Encompassing all walks of life affected, this help is not limited to women and children, but extends to men and the LGBTI group too. Domestic violence doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, culture, religion or economic background, so neither does Friends With Dignity. Research shows that one in three women and one in five men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. That’s someone’s sister, brother, mother, father, aunty, uncle, best friend—someone that you know. Friends With Dignity work extensively with a network of refuges and community services to provide critical and practical services for people who are displaced. Providing aid to individuals and families through programs, donations, scholarships and practical assistance. Social media is relied upon, especially in this day and age, in an effort to spread awareness of domestic violence within the community and to extend to those wanting to help, but unsure how, a way of doing just that. All with the ultimate goal of, of course, helping those who have experienced the horrors of this form of violence to escape and rebuild their lives with purpose, dignity and hope. As a volunteer based organisation, all volunteers on board are dedicated individuals who believe in a world where everyone has access to a safe and loving home, free from violence and abuse. By tackling an array of fronts, Friends With Dignity is able to assist a range of people directly affected by domestic violence and abuse. Friends With Dignity invite all Australians to join them in supporting survivors of domestic violence.
A safe and secure home is something that most of us take for granted, so one major initiative of Friends With Dignity is the Sanctuary Program, which transforms houses into sanctuaries for survivors to start their journey free from violence and with dignity. Dedicated volunteers work hard to create a sanctuary using items donated by supporters—household and personal care items, gift cards and financial donations. The primary goal here is to create a welcoming home for those who have suffered domestic and family violence and have literally left their entire lives behind, generally along with everything they own.
Domestic and family violence has become a hot topic for discussion relatively recently with many government initiatives other bodies campaigning against and raising awareness of its severity, alarming commonplace and negative outcomes on individuals and the wider community. To properly address a problem of this magnitude it must be tackled from many different fronts. Victims need real support, both moral and physical, in order to find the strength to put the detrimental situation or abuser behind them forever and start completely afresh to get out of feeling trapped or that they don’t have a choice in the matter. Friends With Dignity endeavour to do just that with the belief that the cycle must be severed completely if survivors of abuse are to truly break the cycle that they have found themselves in, especially when children are involved as witnesses of domestic abuse at such an impressional age are six times more likely to commit suicide or may even continue on in life to become an abuser themselves. Friends With Dignity work through their network of referring agencies to keep anonymity in order to ensure that their clients’ privacy is always protected. They do their part for victims of domestic violence with no judgement. Their only concern is to ensure that those in need feel that they have a friend in a time of turmoil, though they are unlikely to ever meet, and to also feel that they are finally able to reclaim their dignity in order to leave toxic situations behind and move forward with lives free from violence and abuse for good. Many of the families write to Friends With Dignity through referring agencies with feedback and letters that make it all worthwhile, with children often sending drawings in. These not only bring a tear to the eye, but serve to remind the organisation and its proud volunteers of the profound difference that they have all helped to contribute to that family or individual and, thus, society as a whole—making a difference ‘one friend at a time’.
For further information on Friends With Dignity visit friendswithdignity.org.au