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Coffee, Chat and a Virtual Cheque handover – with Liz and Sara from St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge

St Albans and Hertsmere Womens RefugeOn 7 Apr Liz and Sara, Managers of the St Albans and Hertsmere Women’s Refuge SAHWR   joined us for our monthly coffee morning on Zoom. They were delighted that the Club has been able to send the Refuge £1000 from this year’s fundraising and generous donations. The Club has supported SAHWR for many years – it is a charity which provides specialist domestic abuse services in the St Albans, Hertsmere, Three Rivers, Watford and Dacorum areas.

Liz told us that they use the money from our Club specifically to benefit residents. This year with home-schooling of children they were able to use the money we sent last year to buy Wi-Fi Access SIM cards for the iPads that had been provided by BBC Children in Need. The money also funded Easter egg hunts in the Refuges and gifts for the Mums from the children for Mothers’ Day.

Liz and Sara told us how amazing local community groups are in our area – when they had an outbreak of COVID in one of the houses they got an immediate response from organisations like Sopwell Community Trust and the Vineyard. The virus had a significant impact on them financially – housing benefit didn’t cover the time rooms had to be left empty after cleaning between clients under COVID sanitising rules. Most residents stay with them for about 4 months and it can be extended to 6 months. Community workers support those who cannot flee for 3 months. All of the work is reported to Safer Places, who are responsible for managing the contract overall, and they then report to Herts County Council. Liz and Sara have seen written feedback from clients that the Community Workers have literally saved their lives. They think that the “virtual” legal process put in place during COVID is working well – e.g. non-molestation orders can be worked out by telephone which is much less of an ordeal for the clients.

COVID has taken its toll on staff and they are all feeling very tired so Liz and Sara are doing what they can to manage the burnout.

The bid/tender process for Refuge services is due again in 2022 so the work on the bid will start in August this year. precise arrangements are still unclear at present

Liz and Sara thanked us again for the money raised and donated by Members of our Club in the last year. They repeated how lovely it is to receive our support over the many years and how grateful they are, not just for the money but also for the tea and coffee we send, household items and generally knowing that we’ve got their backs if they need us. We all feel comfortable chatting together like old friends. They promised to let us know when the Refuge needs our help and we will continue to support them in any way we can.

How times have changed – Liz and Sara used to visit the Club for a cheque handover – see the pic here  from  2011  (l to r Janet Tansley, Liz  Perry,  Sara  Jackson,  Jane  Slatter). Nowadays it’s an electronic bank transfer and a Zoom meeting! Mind you we are looking forward to a time “post-COVID” when we can all see one another face to face again…