Leeds Women’s Aid is an incredible local charity, just having a quick look on their website shows the range of important projects that they’re involved in.  We’ve decided that at our next gig our clothing swap stall will be going to them to try and help a little bit.  Here’s an interview with Kate the Chief Executive of Leeds Women’s Aid to tell us a bit more about who they are and the amazing work they’re doing.

For those who are unaware could you give us a history of Leeds Women’s Aid in terms of how the charity began?

In 1973 a group of women’s rights activists from Leeds were becoming increasingly concerned about the lack of support available for women and children living with violent men. It was still considered acceptable by some for men to hit their wives. A building was secured from Leeds City Council for a peppercorn rent and the support group would literally rescue women from their homes at night and take them to what became the second women’s refuge in the country.

The charity was soon formally established as Leeds Women’s Aid and initially run as a cooperative. Since that time LWA has always strived to learn what works best for women and children experiencing violence and abuse and deliver support by women for women that really works.

What sort of people is the charity supporting and are people only from Leeds?

LWAs work in the community is focussed on women and children living in Leeds. Domestic Violence can affect anyone and we will ensure people are offered support, our partners provide a support service for male victims and we can arrange for referrals to be made to the most appropriate services.

LWAs independent refuges and safe house for trafficked women can be accessed by women from across the country in recognition that sometimes women need to put distance between themselves and their abusers for their safety.

How is the charity supported?  Where does the money and items needed come from?

LWA receives funding from a variety of places. We hold a contract with the council to deliver community based support. Rent for our refuge accommodation helps to cover the costs of our buildings. We apply to lots of trusts and foundations who fund specific things, for example, Children in Need pay for our Children’s Support Worker.

We also rely on donations from both companies and individuals as well as fundraising events. We have recently opened our first charity shop in Horsforth. This income is really important to us.

We are really lucky that lots of people in Leeds donate clothes, toys, toiletries and Household items both to women and children in refuge and to our shop. We also work with a number of supermarkets to have food collection trolleys which allow us to operate a food bank for families in refuge.

How has the charity developed and where do you see the future for it

LWA has changed lots over the years, we now offer many different types of support in recognition that the service should fit the individual and not the other way round. We are currently working closely with other women’s charities across Leeds to try and make sure that together we make the most difference for women and children

Ideally we wouldn’t have to exist, however I think that time may be a way off. So, in the coming years we will continue to respond to the needs of women and children in Leeds and continue to raise the issue of domestic violence and abuse – the more we talk about it, the more people will feel able to come to us for support.

What can people do to help?

There are lots of things people can do. The reality is that cash always comes in useful! However there are lots of other things you can do, donations of clothes and toiletries are always welcomed in refuge.

Also – If someone tells you they have experienced domestic violence, please listen to them and believe them. You don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be able to solve their problems, we are here to help with that.

We also run volunteer programmes and have a board of Trustees who are volunteers, do get in touch if you would like to get more involved.

With regard to what people can donate at our next gig, what would you like people to bring and where will these donations be going?

As I’ve mentioned, clothes and toiletries are always welcomed along with dried, tinned or long life food. We will pass these items on to residents in our refuge accommodation.

If someone is unsure whether they should be contacting your service or not what advice would you give them?

Please just give us a call – the helpline is in operation 24 hours a day 0113 2460401.

Is there any other information or advice you’d like to pass on?

Domestic Violence and abuse can happen to anyone. If you need to talk to someone call the helpline. If you are concerned about a friend or relative, call the helpline. Importantly if you are scared for your safety – call the police. There is help out there if you want it, we won’t judge and we won’t tell you what to do but we will understand and talk through options open to you.

To end on a lighter note, we’re big fans of baked goods at Youth Anthems (we have a bakery at every gig).  What are your top three cakes?

Cake is very important to me! Top three cakes, hmmm.

1.      Banana Loaf – I love making this and it’s kind of healthy

2.      Carrot cake – it’s kind of wrong but lovely all the same

3.      I think it has to be chocolate cake – it ticks all the boxes!