24 Jul 2019

Fundraising drive launched for Gloriavale leavers

6:18 pm on 24 July 2019

A crowdfunding campaign has been set up to raise money for people who flee Gloriavale Christian Community on the West Coast.

Mothers and children from the West Coast Christian community Gloriavale.

Mothers and children from the West Coast Christian community Gloriavale. Photo: TVNZ screenshot

The Gloriavale Leavers' Support Trust is looking to raise $100,000 on the Givealittle website to employ a support worker and provide funding support for people who turn their backs on the religious community.

The most recent family to leave the community got out at the weekend.

The couple and their seven children staged their exit with the husband leaving with some of the children four weeks ago and the wife and the remainder of the children escaping at the weekend.

Trust manager Liz Gregory decided to launch the charity after working with defectors in an unofficial capacity for more than six years.

Ms Gregory grew up in a Christian home in Westport when the 'Cooperites' - as they were known then - began to establish Gloriavale on the West Coast.

Since then she has always had an interest in the community.

So when one of the escaped families turned up at her Timaru church six years ago, she and others wanted to help because they couldn't imagine what the family, and others like them, would be going through.

"Everything is new to them. Imagine just waking up one day and your thirties with 10 or 12 children, and you need to start life again from scratch.

"Think of all the things that you do now, imagine having to get them all set up in a week."

Ms Gregory likened the experience of reintegrating former Gloriavale members with that of resettling refugees, with some added baggage.

"[You have to] add to the emotional difficulty of leaving the fact that perhaps your souls is damned, and that of your children, and that you're going to hell for leaving.

"Add on top the fact you might never see or speak to your family that you love again.

"Add the fact that by coming out you're going to be slandered and lied about inside Gloriavale for a little extra pressure."

Ms Gregory said Gloriavale detractors were leaving a thought control group.

Helping families adjust is an ongoing and demanding process for Ms Gregory, necessitating the establishment of the leavers' trust.

"It's become really apparent that it's a full-time job having someone coordinate a family or individuals when they leave.

"What we offer as a trust is help, support, guidance - pointing people in the right direction with support agencies and other groups.

"We've filled in a lot of forms for them for funding, trying to find money and goods that get donated to help families settle in."

The trust has given itself a two-year window to raise the $100,000 target.

The money would be used to hire Ms Gregory as a full-time support worker, provide funding to families who leave the community with nothing, and help with legal advice.

"We also want to have some money for lawyers' fees. We're just finding at the moment there is quite a lot of separation occurring at Gloriavale.

"The fathers are being asked to leave and their wives have been kept inside with the children.

"There is just a need for some to have some funds available for lawyers' advice."

The family that left Gloriavale over the weekend have found a house in Canterbury.

But one of the most urgent needs for them is a 10-seater vehicle.

Ms Gregory is hoping the money they raise would pay for things like this and other necessities as they help families to reintegrate back into society.

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