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New celebrity patron for West Sussex’s only women’s centre

By Lotte Pegler


A women’s centre in Bognor Regis has celebrated its fifth anniversary by announcing its first celebrity patron.


After opening the new My Sisters House Centre building in August, Dame Julie Walters said she would be ‘honoured’ to be the patron.


My Sisters’ house Women’s Centre provides a range of support needs to women from all backgrounds facing a variety of issues.


To date, they have provided support to 1,000 women, being the only women’s centre in West Sussex.


Their help involves recognising strengths, acknowledging difficulties and helping individuals achieve a positive change they are proud of.


On August 16, Dame Julie Walters opened their newly extended building in London Road.


Following the visit, she said: “I think the team here are utterly amazing. I am very proud to have my name on the plaque and meeting those courageous survivors and warriors with the wonderful Michelle was completely inspiring and unforgettable. I would be honoured to be your patron.”


My Sisters’ House Women’s Centre chairman Dianne Smith said: “At a time when we have supported 1,000 women and launched our brand-new website, we are delighted that Dame Julie Walters is our first patron.


“Having the support of a four times BAFTA-winning actress who is also a long-standing patron of Women’s Aid, is a welcome recognition of our standing in the landscape of women’s services.”


The centre first began its journey in 2014 around a kitchen table, opening the first drop-in in May, 2015.


Seventy five per cent of the women helped by the centre are self-referred, with 65 per cent of the women suffering from domestic abuse.


My Sisters’ House provide a frontline service, co-produced by local women, safe, supportive and community-based, trauma informed, holistic and in a gender specific way.


The centre offers information and signposting, advice and support, individual casework and complex casework, help to grow skills and confidence and enable access to volunteering and work.


Julie Budge, founder and chief executive, said: “I am so utterly proud that my team have achieved so much and 2019 has certainly been our year – receiving the Big Community Fund grant and expanding into new premises.


“The fact that Dame Julie Walters visited us in August was thrilling enough but the fact that we impressed her so much that she agreed to be our first patron is just unbelievably exciting and rewarding.


“Such an amazing thing for Bognor Regis and Arun that she has recognised us as a vital community asset.”

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