Ipswich: Lighthouse Women’s Aid refuge launches appeal to build centre for older children

IPSWICH: Can you give youngsters fleeing from domestic abuse a chance to be children again?

That is the question being posed by staff at Lighthouse Women’s Aid, formerly Ipswich Women’s Aid, as they launch a campaign today in partnership with The Evening Star and Town 102 to build a centre for older children.

The charity runs two refuges in Ipswich offering sanctuary to women and children fleeing from domestic violence.

While they offer a home to youngsters up to 16, there is little for older children to do – and since they often cannot see friends for fear of giving away their new location, it can leave them feeling isolated.

Lighthouse chief executive Sally Winston said: “We get quite a lot of donations for our younger children but we rarely get as much for older children.

“They come here with their own stresses to deal with, so they need their own space. It’s really about having a place they can go to sit and relax, whether they want to play pool, listen to music or have a go on the Playstation like normal teenagers.”

The charity is hoping to raise around �15,000 within the next three months to build a large log cabin at the back of one of their Ipswich refuges for children aged eight to 16.

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Mrs Winston added: “People come to a refuge because they are fleeing an abusive situation. It’s not safe for them to tell anyone where they are going, and we can’t allow them to have friends come and visit either because it’s got to be confidential.

“It’s quite a scary experience because they are suddenly whisked away from everything they’re used to, or taken out of the county they’ve grown up in – it’s like being dumped on Mars.

“They can literally land on our doorstep with nothing but the clothes they are wearing.”

Over the past year, the refuge has been a sanctuary for 111 children – of whom about half are aged eight or more – as they leave behind months or years of seeing violence in their own home.

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover said: “This charity does fantastic work in helping vulnerable women and children to get out of abusive domestic situations. Young people should have somewhere they can feel safe and make friends, especially if they have been through a traumatic time at home, so we’re delighted to add our support to this vital appeal.”

The campaign is also being supported by the Town Kids Trust and will be launched on Nick Pandolfi’s Town 102 breakfast show today, where the presenter will speak to survivors of domestic abuse.

Go to www.lighthousewa.org.uk to find out more or to donate to the campaign. People without internet access can call fundraising officer Sarah Lomasney-McIntyre on 01473 220778.

n What more can be done to help children suffering from domestic abuse? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk