A special guest joined volunteers and staff at My Sisters’ House in Bognor Regis as they celebrated their recent expansion.
Actress and writer Julie Walters attended the women’s centre to mark five years since its opening.
Julie Walters said:
“I’m a woman, I’m a human being. People being oppressed and abused, particularly women who are even more vulnerable because of children as well, it’s a terrible thought to me.
“I can’t imagine anything worse than being trapped in an abusive situation.
“I think it’s really impressive hearing the survivors’ stories and how vital and wonderful the work is that they’re doing.”
My Sisters’ House is a grassroots organisation set up in August, 2014, by a group of local women. Their first drop-in took place in May, 2015.
The organisation has 17 members of staff and 32 active volunteers, between them providing 150 hours per week.
They aim to help vulnerable women, whether it be women with histories of physical or emotional abuse, or women suffering with loss.
“The hardest thing is walking through the door,” Julie Walters continued. “Once you’re there, there will be a warm strong supportive non-judgmental team.
“It will change your life. It will make you love yourself again.”
Julie praised the work of the volunteers and staff at My Sisters’ House who have supported more than 880 women since opening in 2015.
The centre provides advice, support, training and workshops, for all women.
As well as general services, they also have a Stronger Futures department which focusses on women who are living with, or recovering from, domestic abuse.
Their Step Forward programme is aimed at increasing employability through mentoring and support.
Julie Budge, founder of the organisation, originally came up with the idea as she sat around her kitchen table.
She wanted to finally provide a women’s refuge in West Sussex. My Sister’s House continues to be the only one.
Julie Budge said:
“Just think about the fact that we have supported 880 women.
“Think about the life-changing impact we had on those women.
“We’re not just talking about a little bit of advice or a little bit of information. We’re talking about life-changing stuff.
“We have achieved that from an amazing team. The staff, past and present that have been involved have all impacted in their own way.
“As many of you know, we have been on a roller coaster ride.
“We’ve moved five times, we’ve been in four different properties last year. We’ve had a lot of tears, a lot of trauma, but also had some delightful moments.
“The women who are coming through the door bring us joy all the time.
“It takes so much courage to come through the door yet when we start working with them they bring positivity.
“It’s amazing how much resilience women have so that’s a good thing.”
My Sisters’ House recently expanded their premises from the original building in London Road to the adjoining one next door.
Thanks to the addition of the much larger premises and the second floor, the centre has been able to expand just as the wanted.
“We took the keys on the 12th of June. Since then, we have spent £10,000 on refurbishments. We’ve done it ourself and it has been hard but we wanted it to be accessible for all, hence the ramp.”
“Obviously when we get things like the from the National Lottery Community Fund, we got £38,000, and then this building coming up a couple of months later, it’s brilliant stuff.
“But that comes with all the things like limited resources and space. We had to live with that and it has been challenging. No private counselling rooms meant ladies didn’t know where to go.
“It has been a hard year but moving in here is a big moment. We’re really honoured to have Julie Walters here to celebrate.
“It was a lovely reward for staff who have worked so hard over the past five years to get to this point. It was a treat to have such an acclaimed actress here. She was so the right person to come and help open. It was a very, very special day.”