23 Nov 2020

Episode 7: Woven Earth - Breaking Silence

From Breaking Silence, 12:00 am on 23 November 2020

Series Classification: PG (Parental Guidance Recommended for Younger Viewers)

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After Kerryn escaped an abusive marriage while living in Australia she discovered first-hand how hard it is for women and their children to restart their lives after leaving the sanctuary of a women’s refuge.

After moving to New Zealand with her young children she founded the Woven Earth charity.  Much like in Australia, women’s refuges don’t have the money or staff to help families after they have left a refuge and secured housing.  Most often these families move into their new home with little more than the clothes on their back, and with little or no resources to buy much needed household goods.

That’s where Kerryn and her team come in.  They collect and store donated household goods until the moment they are needed.  They then transport them to the new house and set it up for the family on the day they move in.

Simonne follows Kerryn’s day as she sets up her first house.

Kerryn: "Then what?"

Author: Lisa Metivier

The question "Then what?" has weighed heavily on Kerryn Thrupp's mind these last few years, "We urge women suffering domestic abuse to stand up and leave. But, then what?" She points out that, leaving family harm is not a single event, it’s a journey.  Often, even with the best of exit plans in place, a situation becomes so volatile that women have to flee their homes with their children and few if any personal belongings or money.  They run to seek shelter and safety in refuge, but for those who can never return home, how do they then rebuild their lives?

Kerryn knows first-hand what it’s like to be in refuge.  She knows the indignity of suddenly finding yourself with very little, the struggle of  trying to make things alright again for your children and the enormity of completely rebuilding your life.  It’s this personal experience that drives her to want to give other women and their children a helping hand to step back up again after losing almost everything.  Luckily, she is a woman of action and the charity she founded in early 2019, Woven Earth, seeks to do just that. 

Woven Earth is about turning houses into homes for survivors of domestic abuse without them having to incur any extra debt.  The charity provides household essentials for women and children once they leave transitional housing or refuge and move to more permanent accommodation.  These essentials include pantry staples, furnishings, linen, bedding, home décor, children’s books, toys and any other good-quality donated items.  Although Kerryn never gets to meet the families she’s helping, she is given basic information about numbers and ages of children so she can personalise each home.  A day or two before the new tenants move in, Kerryn and the Woven Earth community of helpers come in and kit out the house.

Inspiration for Woven Earth initially came from an Australian charity, but Kerryn has taken the concept and is making it her own, putting a strong emphasis on trying to meet the needs of the children involved in transitioning their lives.  She’s consulted with psychologists about the importance of practical support in trauma recovery for children in their rebuild journey.  As far as possible, she'll make sure that the seven year old who loves cycling finds a new bike and helmet in his room.  Where appropriate and possible, Woven Earth also helps fund some extra curricula activities for children to help them integrate into their new communities.

Honouring human dignity is paramount for Kerryn.  She describes Woven Earth as a charity, "giving practical help to survivors so they can begin to rebuild their lives with dignity."  That’s why she insists that all donated items are in good condition, that kitchen, bathroom and laundry products are brand-new.  She also makes sure that each home is also given a few non-essential items, maybe a hand-cream or moisturiser, some fresh flowers in a vase.  Small gestures of kindness that make a big difference, that add to someone's sense of self-worth and dignity.

Kerryn remembers well how kindness from others helped her through the darkness.  And along with all the material gifts, what Woven Earth is essentially giving is kindness and caring.  After the first house she kitted out, Kerryn later found out the mother had walked around touching everything, unable to believe that she owned it all, unable to believe that people she didn’t know and would never meet had cared enough to do this for her and her children.

Referrals for those in need come to Kerryn through significant, established organisations within the sector who certainly welcome what she's doing.  Jane Drumm, former General Manager of Shine (a national domestic abuse charity) says,

"After leaving refuge, survivors of domestic violence often have to rebuild their lives from the ground up.  They have many practical needs for which there aren’t services or simple options available.  So we at Shine are really pleased to see Woven Earth providing practical individual support at this critical time.  Such support can make an enormous difference to women and children in need giving them the chance to rebuild their lives with dignity and stay safe.  It means so much to women and children going through a distressing time to know that others care about them enough to want to make their lives easier.  We look forward to offering Woven Earth’s much needed services to our clients."

Though barely one year old, Woven Earth is already a force gathering momentum.  Businesses are coming on board to offer on-going support, good-quality material donations keep coming and volunteers are flocking to join, though the doors are still open for more.  Transport and storage remain the big obstacles to overcome but Kerryn’s working on those.

As to the future vision for Woven Earth, Kerryn wants to create a clear working model in Auckland and then roll it out across New Zealand.  Her call to action; "Let's bring our abilities and passions together to make a difference to family violence survivors trying to rebuild their lives.  Together let's change the #thenwhat !"

If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 111.

Other places to seek help:

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Magnetic Pictures

Magnetic Pictures Photo: Magnetic Pictures

Juanita Edwards and Brian Holland formed Magnetic Pictures in 2019 with a view to creating original, high quality programmes people love to watch. Their passion is factual content with a social focus.

Juanita and Brian’s recent projects include the Anzac Day documentary Paradise Soldiers acknowledging the contribution and sacrifice of Cook Island soldiers for the NZ Armed Forces from World War I through to Vietnam and present day, and web series K Road Chronicles II exploring homelessness in Aotearoa. 

Made with the support of NZ On Air

Made with the support of NZ On Air Photo: NZ On Air