June 25, 2020
Junction volunteer Jennifer.
For Junction volunteer Jennifer, her challenging past has culminated in a determination to create positive spaces for women.
Now leading the Women’s Group at Hackham Community Centre (HCC), Jennifer’s past experiences with domestic violence and homelessness give her real empathy for those who attend.
“Women’s Group is sometimes the only chance for someone to reach out and connect,” she explained. “We all have different stories – and for some people having this chance is just what they need.
“I wanted it to be a group where we could come together in a safe environment and have a space where we’re not afraid to say anything. Somewhere you can go for a couple of hours to sit down, talk and relax.”
Before connecting with Junction, Jennifer escaped from an abusive and violent relationship, leaving her homelessness.
Forced to uproot her life and give up her education to care for her daughter, she found it difficult to see a way forward.
It was through Hackham Community Centre that she was able to access the support she needed.
“Crèche helped me so much,” she said. “Knowing my daughter was cared for and safe opened a lot of doors for my study and self-care. I also did a lot of programs with Junction – Circle of Security and Managing Challenging Teenage Behaviour, which really helped too.”
She said the relationships she’s formed with the staff and volunteers at HCC are irreplaceable.
“As a single parent, it’s easy to feel like you’re on your own. I’ve worked in childcare and had connections with lots of different services – but there’s nothing quite like Hackham. To be a part of this, it’s like an extension of my family. I love it there,” she said. “I’m especially grateful to my good friends Terezia and Hayley, who have supported me through it all.”
Jennifer had been attending Women’s Group for 6 months prior to stepping into the leadership role.
Inspired by the dedication of those involved, she felt it was a natural step when the opportunity arose.
“It took me a while to build up my confidence but by the end of the year, I was already contributing a lot of ideas,” she said.
“When they were looking for volunteers to lead the group and no one else stepped up, I decided to do it,” she said. “It’s not always easy to see the amount of work that goes into running it. Tammy (HCC Team Leader and Co-ordinator) did it so well – and I wanted to provide something of an equally high standard.”
As the only weekly programmed activity for women in SA, attendance at the group has almost doubled in the past year.
“It’s great to have big numbers but the most important thing is being consistent for people who really need it,” Jennifer said. “I know what that feels like. There are some who really need a place to feel valued.”
Jennifer eventually hopes to re-enrol in her Diploma of Community Services, complete a Bachelor of Counselling and get a paid job working with families and children doing support work. She also hopes to take her children on holiday - one day.
For now though, she is committed to her volunteer role and is glad to be in control of her own future.
“I know what I’m interested in now,” she said. “I can identify my strengths, weaknesses, find somewhere to use the skills. It’s nice to have that.”