Today is the deadline date for entries and nominations into this year’s Kent Charity Awards.
As we wait for the final entries to come in we thought it would be nice to catch up with our last Kent Charity of the Year, the amazing, Oasis who for over 22 years have supported people living in Kent affected by domestic abuse.
How has your charity adapted to the current pandemic?
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on those affected by domestic abuse. Lockdown measures have increased the risks to those who find themselves isolated at home with someone who is harming them and controlling them. It has been harder for victims to flee and harder for them to seek help – although we have increased the hours of our helpline and brought in more virtual support, it can be almost impossible for victims to call with the perpetrator always at home. With homeworking likely to continue for many, we expect this to be an issue for some time.
The biggest issue we faced at the start of the pandemic was whether to still accept women and children into the refuges. On the one hand we had a duty to those already in refuge to try and keep Covid out of the building. At the same time, however, we had to ask ourselves how we could turn away those in need of refuge. We decided very quickly that we would continue to offer refuge space to those who need it. As a communal refuge, that meant that we have had to ask new families to self-isolate for ten days on arrival. We made rotas for communal areas (such as kitchens and the laundry room) but otherwise new families have had to spend their first days in refuge self-isolating. It’s been heartbreaking because those first few days in refuge are when the peer support kicks in; the support of another family who have been where you are can make all the difference and lifelong friendships have been forged in our refuges. One women left after 3 days, returning to the perpetrator at increased risk for having dared to leave.
Despite all this, we are so proud that we have been able to keep every single service running throughout the pandemic. Some services have operated remotely, the refuges have had to adapt to new safety measures and the support group has been run over the phone, with the more vulnerable members having garden visits. We have slowly brought in more face-to-face support – for example our young people’s mentors have been able to go for walks with their young clients. We know that children are isolated from their usual support networks and we have seen increased complexity of need around mental health.
With the absence of face to face fundraising events how have you managed to fundraise?
We had to cancel all of our fundraising events and our charity shop has been closed for much of the year. We don’t receive any statutory funding for our work with children and young people – our fundraising pays for these vital services and we depend on that income. Our supporters have been nothing short of incredible – they have embraced virtual events and they have held quizzes, sporting challenges, art sales, book swaps and virtual coffee mornings. They have designed and sold T-Shirts, they have baked, they have jumped they have climbed, they have swum, they have cycled, they have danced. Oasis is a local charity, embedded in the communities we serve, and we have never felt part of the community more than this year. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported. It means so much to us all.
When the UK returns to a new normal what will be the first thing your charity does?
We would like to have a party for the refuge children who have been through so much and missed out on so much since March 2020.
Will you be entering the Kent Charity Awards this year?
We have decided not to this year because we have had a big year in more ways than one. We have recently merged with Choices Domestic Abuse Service in North Kent to become one organisation. As a single charity, still called Oasis, we will be able to support even more vulnerable families across a wider part of the county. By pooling our expertise and resources we become more sustainable and ensure that we can be there for anyone who needs us across Thanet, Dover, North Kent and Medway. Our focus over the next year needs to be on the frontline – we have seen a surge in referrals since the start of the pandemic but we believe that the real impact on those affected by domestic abuse has yet to be seen. To be chosen as Kent’s Charity of the Year is an honour that we will never forget and, particularly over the past year, has been a point of pride that has helped us all to keep going through the busiest year we have known. We will apply next year and we would like to thank the judges for recognising something special in our staff team and volunteers.
Entering the Kent Charity Awards
Deadline for entries is midnight today (12 April), just click here which will take you to the entry form.