Thursday, April 30, 2009

Osborne House--35 years strong

I was at Government House today to attend a reception celebrating the 35th anniversary of Osborne House. Osborne House is a women's shelter providing a 24 hour crisis line and emergency short term housing for women experiencing domestic violence.

The politicians gave wonderful and humourous speeches, the board chair gave a recount of the early days of starting up--no government funding was used to start Osborne House. It was created against all odds and now receives strong governmental support. However, the real stars of the show were two women who are passionate spokeswomen for the organization as past participants in the program. They told us of the difficult past they left behind when they went to Osborne House for help, and the tireless staff that provided input to them. One of them, a retired teacher, now does "payback", working in their programs and providing a face and voice to the value of the organization.

She was humourous and strong, clear and bold--a survivor.
The other quietly read a moving poem read on the first anniversary of her new life--confidence and new life oozing out of her.

I was fortunate to end up sitting during dinner with one of the pioneers of shelters in the province, who shared memories of starting a shelter in rural areas. Her city pioneer joined us for dessert, and they laughed at the stories they told. Out of date facilities, ceiling leaks, broken toasters, a dumped bottle of curry in the Thanksgiving stuffing one year...lots of laughter. Bold conversations with politicians, long travel up north, long hours fundraising to make it happen. Lots of strength.

Osborne House is 35 years old. It is the second oldest shelter in Canada. Since the 1970's, the murder rate of women in domestic situations has been cut in half.

50% --that's a lot of lives saved. Yippee for women's shelters...that's huge.

50% as many still being killed--that's a lot of lives still being lost.

In the old days--just 40 years ago, there was no where to go, nothing to do. Too many women who "walked into doors", or "fell down the stairs".

There was a hope shared this evening--that in 35 years from now, Osborne House is not needed. That intimate partner violence be a relic of the past. That Osborne House will be transformed from women's shelter to senior's housing.

The pioneers of women's shelters were confident, outspoken, courageous women who advocated for what they knew was needed...may those of us who follow in their footsteps continue the battle to eliminate the fear of domestic violence.

Stand up. Speak up. Get help. Give help. Talk. Give. Now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Osborne House is indeed a wonderful place, that helps many women and children.