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Bournemouth Women's Refuge receives funding for new garden

Staff at BCHA's Bournemouth Women's Refuge

The Refuge team, who will begin work on the garden this month. Back row left to right: Anna McLaughlin, Becky McManus, Vera Lizunova, Anita Rothon and Nicole Shearing. Rhianon Argent (centre)

BCHA’s Bournemouth Women’s Refuge is to create a community allotment and sensory garden with the help of a £2500 grant from Wessex Water’s Community Recovery Fund.

The ‘Victory Garden’ will include water features, a sandpit, a playhouse and raised planting beds, where women and their children being sheltered by the refuge can spend time, grow produce and take part in activities run by BCHA’s family therapist and child support worker.

Bournemouth Women’s Refuge is operated by charitable housing association BCHA with support and funding from BCP Council and offers self-contained and shared flats in confidential locations, with trained and experienced staff available 24-hours a day to provide practical and emotional support to customers.

Refuge manager Rhianon Argent said: “We were absolutely thrilled when we learned our application to the Wessex Water Community Recovery Fund had been successful.

“Women and their children come to the refuge from all over the UK to try to build a new life free from abuse. But because they tend not to be from this area and have often suffered deeply traumatic experiences, they can be anxious about leaving the refuge grounds and prefer to spend time in our garden – and having a welcoming outdoor space has become even more important during the lockdown, when our families have been almost totally confined to the refuge.”

She continued: “We applied to the Wessex Water Recovery Fund because it looks to fund projects, like ours, which support people in financially difficult circumstances and also use nature for health and wellbeing benefits.

“The completed allotment and sensory garden will bring a host of benefits to all who use it - reducing social isolation, allowing our families to interact with each other and also providing mental wellbeing through horticultural activities.

“We are extremely excited to get started on creating a space everyone can enjoy.”

The Wessex Water Recovery Fund was launched in response to the challenges faced by communities during the Covid outbreak and funds are being allocated and delivered by Dorset Community Foundation.

Dorset Community Foundation Director Grant Robson said: “Everyone is aware of the benefits that tending a garden and seeing something grow can bring and we are delighted to support BCHA with this initiative. The garden will be a wonderful outdoor space for families to spend time together and we are looking forward to seeing the results.”

Refuge staff, along with volunteer group The Friends of Bournemouth Refuge will begin building the Victory Garden on May 21.

The Refuge has also set up a JustGiving page to fundraise for more equipment to add to the Victory Garden at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bwrgarden

Anyone with good quality garden furniture or plants they would like to donate can email: abusesupport@bcha.org.uk

Kirsty Scarlett, Head of Community Engagement at Wessex Water said: “We are really pleased our local panel chose to support this project in Bournemouth through the Wessex Water Foundation.  It’s so important to provide access to green spaces for health and wellbeing and we know this garden project will be a positive and safe place for women and children at a time of crisis in their lives.”

Any UK resident woman aged 16 and over, with or without children, who has been subjected to any form of domestic abuse can access one of the BCHA Refuges in Bournemouth and Poole. Both refuges also offer outreach and drop in services to men and Poole Refuge also has a male space.

Contact: 01202 710777 (24 hours) or email: abusesupport@bcha.org.uk

You can also call the National 24-hour Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247 which is able to support anyone throughout the UK looking to find a refuge space to escape domestic abuse.

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