It Takes a Village with SunnyKids
With greater awareness around the issues of family and domestic violence John Caruso meets the team on a mission to literally save a life tonight – and every night they can.
It may have been missing from the calendar the last two years however this was the fifth time that SunnyKids presented the Mayoral Ball. The first at Venue 114, more than $48,000 was raised to support more than 160 families as part of a lifesaving new initiative.
Kathleen Hope is SunnyKids’ General Manager, starting with the organisation eleven years ago but her interest in sociological issues started many years before that.
“Driving social change is a powerful motivator, although working in the domestic violence area is something I never thought I’d do,” she said. “However from my early placement in a refuge, my attitude and understanding around DV has changed completely.
“At SunnyKids we’re involved in several programs, from engaging with children directly to supporting whole families and family units. Working with different departments, statutory authorities and with local schools.
“We provide crisis intervention programs, domestic violence counselling, high security refuge and safe houses.”
Mentoring, educating and touching on as many points as possible to strengthen family units and break the cycle of violence all fall under the SunnyKids umbrella.
“There’s increased awareness of the issues surrounding family and domestic violence however many people are still very uncomfortable with the topic and the impact it has on children and how hard it is to break the cycle,” Kathleen says. “Domestic violence is such an intimate issue it’s difficult to know where to start, and for many generations it’s been something they’ve dealt with behind closed doors.”
The issue is becoming more lethal, and the recognition of cohesive control is something that has only been understood in recent times.
“Our ethos is that it takes a community to affect social change. We receive government funding for only two of our programs – less than 40% – and the rest comes from the community from local fundraising, grants, events, and sponsoring children via our P100 members,” Kathleen explains.
“The upside to that means we’re not bound by government red-tape and a lot of the support we offer is much more effective and delivers a direct response.”
Economic instability can’t be understated when looking at the impacts of domestic violence within our community.
“Unhealthy relationships can deteriorate faster when you add life-changing stresses to the family dynamic,” Kathleen says. “As humans, we’re wired to seek control around our surroundings to create structure and manage what we’ve got going on.
“When those things are destabilised by external pressures such as loss of employment; these things can push us into controlling things in other ways. In an unhealthy relationship you can see how people might then turn towards each other to seek control and that’s where relationships become toxic.”
These social issues are experienced by many, however they’re handled differently by different individuals and personalities. A big part of what SunnyKids does is to educate and teach kids what a healthy relationship is.
“The Save a Life Tonight (S.A.L.T) initiative, launched at the Mayoral Ball, is all about making a start to break the cycle,” Kathleen explains. “We hope it’ll provide an opportunity for parents who recognise that a situation is escalating and there’s potential danger for their children.
“S.A.L.T means there’s a bed for them that night where all their basic needs are met without dealing with the stigma of having to reach out to friends or family.
“I’ve worked on more than 5,000 cases on the Coast and the most common comment, especially from women, is that they would have left sooner if they had a place to go.
“They may not meet the criteria for a refuge, however hopefully with this initiative we can offer an immediate solution which means they don’t have to put up with an escalating scenario and they can feel empowered to make a choice that protects them and their children.
“From a child’s perspective, they can see that one of their primary caregivers is acting in way that is unacceptable and hopefully understand that there is a way of removing themselves from that situation. So many children experience inaction by their parents because they’re silent victims and Save a Life Tonight can address that.”
Kathleen says Save a Life Tonight was a longitudinal campaign where the benefits might not fully be seen for another 10, 15 or 20 years.
“However if we don’t start now, we’re never going to get there,” says Kathleen.
The campaign, which is totally community-supported, is being run alongside SunnyKids’ other crisis intervention programs and fundraising initiatives.
“There’s no government funding, so part of this means we’re driving that social change and education,” she said.
“Three hundred dollars equates to a night’s accommodation, safety planning with a DV expert, basic needs like food, and an instant village of support.
“The network we have on the Sunshine Coast is almost 300 strong! There’s service providers and private practitioners and other people who are connected to SunnyKids who all want to make a difference, so we can easily refer to someone to meet your needs,” Kathleen says.
For a $300 tax-deductible donation you could save a life – tonight – surely that’s something we can all support.
SAVE A LIFE TONIGHT
One-in-three people experience domestic violence.
More than 160 families on the Sunshine Coast fleeing a DV situation can now access life-saving support, immediately.
Every $300 donation to Save A Life Tonight helps a family with a night’s accommodation and professional support.
More than $48,000 was raised at the Mayoral Ball to help 160 families.