Women's refuge makes Christmas special

Christmas at Bury St Edmunds Women's Aid Centre

Staff at the refuge has made it as special as possible for the women and children. Left to right: Sarah Hart, child support worker, Father Christmas, Louise Pag, child support worker. - Credit: Bury St Edmunds Women's Aid Centre

Staff at a women's refuge are ensuring Christmas is special for those it helps.

Bury St Edmunds Women's Aid Centre, which provides safety for those experiencing domestic abuse, is trying its hardest to make sure it really feels like Christmas for its women and children, with a kids' party, festive dinner and hampers.

Tina Hickey, principal operations manager, said: "It's really important as they are away from their home and family that we make it really special."

She said they were "really fortunate" the refuge was well supported by the local community, who donate gifts and food for the women and children.

The Aquarius Singers women's choir is one of those groups to support the charity, raising thousands of pounds over the past decade.

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Its fundraising Christmas concert cannot take place due to coronavirus, but instead the Aquarius Singers have sold Christmas cards and have held a virtual carolling session, and every year choir members donate gifts and essential items for women and their children.

This year, the Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw has joined forces with the choir to collect and store gifts from choir members to deliver them to the charity for residents at the refuge and families who have recently been rehomed. 

The Aquarius Singers and Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw who have been helping Bury St Edmunds Women's Aid Centre

Left to right: Penny Bentley, chair of The Aquarius Singers committee, Lauren Boothroyd and Zoe Gordon from Bury Women's Aid, and Jess Davidson, Rickshaw volunteer, and in the background members of the choir - Credit: Andy Abbott

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A spokesman for the choir said: “This charity has a place in all our hearts, and despite all the restrictions due to the pandemic, we are so glad that we are able to show these families that they are still in our thoughts. We are very grateful to the Bury St Edmunds Rickshaw for cycling to our aid.” 

Ms Hickey said there would be differences this Christmas due to coronavirus, but they had still been able to provide a big Christmas lunch (those in the refuge are in a bubble).

"The staff cook and wait hand and foot on all the residents and they have a lovely Christmas dinner," she said.

Father Christmas came for the children's party, but this year he was outside.

The charity, which has 22 bed spaces at its refuge, also provides outreach in the community and staff have been doing doorstep drop-offs of donated food and gifts.

Like others, the charity has had to quickly adapt this year as it dealt it with changes brought about by Covid-19.

More has been done on the phone and platforms like Zoom, but the refuge has remained open, with measures in place like deep cleans and new residents having to isolate for a period of time.

"We didn't want turn anybody anyway who needed refuge," Ms Hickey said.

There have been reports nationally of domestic abuse cases soring this year, but Ms Hickey said their calls had been on par with previous years.

A resident who has recently been rehomed following her time in refuge said: "We are all so grateful and could not be happier. 

"Our journey via another refuge and then with you all led us perfectly to where we are emotionally and to our new home, so after all that we've been through, we are writing the best of endings to that chapter."

Ms Hickey said her staff had been "amazing and could do with a round of applause" for this year.

"It's not been easy and we have had to think quickly on our feet as everybody else," she said.

The refuge charity is still available over the Christmas period and New Year for anyone who needs its support.

  • To get in contact with Bury St Edmunds Women's Aid Centre by phone call 01284 753085 or visit the website

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