This past Christmas, something very special happened throughout Australia. People were invited to ‘share the dignity’ to those women in our community who are homeless or struggling and who often have to choose between buying food or buying basic feminine hygiene products. The ‘It’s In The Bag’ Christmas collection is an initiative from Share The Dignity.
Staff from our offices were encouraged to use a bag that they no longer used and fill it with feminine hygiene products including sanitary items, shampoo, deodorant etc. Donors were encouraged to also include a small everyday luxury item, such as a face mask, and a Christmas card to show the recipient that someone cares and is thinking about her wellbeing this Christmas; to show her that she matters and is not forgotten, because everyone deserves to feel that way.
The collection for the initiative in the Newcastle State Office was spearheaded by Judy Darby and Sally Bird from the LWB Training Team. They set up a collection station at their desks where staff could leave goods throughout November, and they publicised the initiative around the office.
When asked why she was passionate about supporting this cause Sally remarked, “I was that girl, that girl in high school, who relied on friends or the ladies in the office. I remember very much the shame. That shame permeates through you into adulthood, so I then became a domestic violence survivor. I know what one of those bags would have meant to me. If we can change just one moment of stress and sadness to one of joy and hope. We can change the course of a life.”
Once all the bags had been donated, Judy and Sally organised a ‘Goodie for a Goldie’ morning tea which saw staff come together to enjoy delicious treats for a donation. It was a tremendous effort from Judy and Sally. The Newcastle Office donated 33 bags with an equivalent retail value of more than $2300 and the morning tea raised a further $200 to donate to Share The Dignity.
For LWB staff, the decision to donate to this cause hit particularly close to home. As a national charity, LWB clients were to be just some of the recipients of the ‘It’s In The Bag’ Christmas collection. Female asylum seekers and refugees at our National Immigration Support Service (NISS) in Parramatta, NSW received the bags from Share The Dignity. A total of 230 bags were donated to NISS and a small army of LWB staff helped to bring the bags into the Parramatta office.
“At this time of year, a gift such as this will make such a huge difference to the clients we work with,” explained Natalie Taha, Centre Coordinator for NISS. “When you arrive in Australia, sometimes providing essentials such as this can be difficult, women should never have to choose between hygiene products or food because she is unable to afford everyday necessities.
One recipient of a Share The Dignity bag expressed her gratitude on Facebook writing, “Thank you, thank you, it means so much to me. I was stunned by the cute bag and then also by the huge variety of items inside. Even a necklace! You made me feel valued and loved which is some of the things I didn’t believe I was worthy of. You proved me wrong and that is so right.”
The ‘It’s In The Bag’ collection is a nationwide initiative that saw unprecedented support in 2017. As Judy was dropping the 33 donated bags at the Bunnings collection point in Newcastle the team member commented that they had to ask Share The Dignity to pick up the bags three times per day as they were receiving such an overwhelming amount of donations.
The Salvation Army alone had requested 92,000 bags, and by 6 December 2017 that goal had been reached with well over 100,000 bags being donated throughout the entire campaign.
This initiative is all about courage, respect and putting people’s dignity first, which are values held deeply by LWB and our staff. We look forward to supporting this initiative again at Christmas time in 2018
To learn more about Share The Dignity and how you can support homeless women with access to much needed sanitary items visit www.sharethedignity.com.au