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Helping Hands charity provides therapy and play facility for BCHA’s Poole Refuge

Cllr Bagwell and Karen Norton in the new multifunctional activity room at BCHA's Refuge in Poole

The Mayor of Poole, Cllr Julia Bagwell, left, and Karen Norton of the Poole Refuge Helping Hands charity


The Mayor of Poole, Cllr Julie Bagwell, has opened a £21,000 multifunctional activity room for domestic abuse survivors and their children at BCHA’s Poole Refuge.

Poole Refuge ‘Helping Hands’ charity, which was founded by refuge supporters Karen Norton, Maureen Sida and Kevin Norton, raised the £21,000 needed to fund the project.

The new multifunctional activity room allows children to enjoy music therapy, dressing-up (becoming someone else for a while), puppets (communicating through puppets allows children to talk more freely), art, storytelling and sensory play.

Parents can also use the space to explore healing activities such as poetry and writing, art, yoga, meditation and relaxation. Along with educational sessions including cookery, financial and IT skills. The room also contains a fully equipped kitchen with equipment for cookery sessions, as well as a table, sofa and chairs.

Cllr Julie Bagwell was given a hands-on tour of the new facility, which is filled with resources and equipment to enable children and their parents to play, learn and heal together.

Karen Norton said: “Kevin (my husband) and I have worked extremely hard to put together this very necessary project, which has been over two years in the making. Many of the children and adults who come to the refuge have experienced verbal, emotional or physical abuse that most of us would not even be able to imagine. The facilities that we have provided will help in aiding future independence.

“Once here they are safe. But the highly confidential nature of the refuge means they are not allowed any friends to visit. So it is vital we have a communal space where children and adults can spend time together, be stimulated and have the opportunity to personally develop.”

Poole Refuge ‘Helping Hands’ raised the money needed to fund the project with the help of chartitable trusts and local businesses including: The Bothwell Trust, The Co-operative Group, the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Foundation, JP Morgan, Foresters Financial, Poole Soroptimists, Waitrose and John Lewis. The kitchen was purchased from Howdens in Poole, who donated an integrated tall freezer and fridge.

Poole Refuge is operated by BCHA with support and funding from Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and offers self-contained and shared flats in confidential locations, with trained and experienced staff available 24-hours a day.

BCHA’s CEO, Martin Hancock, said: “We can’t thank Poole Refuge ‘Helping Hands’ enough for its continuing support. This stunning new facility will be a focal point for the refuge and will play an important part in helping survivors of domestic abuse to rebuild their shattered lives and forge new futures.

Kevin and Karen who decorated and installed the sensory room would like to thank BCHA’s New Leaf company who decorated the new multifunctional room, carried out electrical work and fitted the kitchen.

Poole Refuge ‘Helping Hands’ is made up of seven volunteer/trustees. The charity would like to hear from potential new members and supporters as well as companies or community groups interested in fundraising for future projects. Please email:


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