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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Hands on Heart reaches out to women in crisis

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Dani Gerace, left, and Kathy Samuels (right) have found a mutual mission in supporting women in vulnerable situations. Photo: Supplied
Dani Gerace, left, and Kathy Samuels (right) have found a mutual mission in supporting women in vulnerable situations. Photo: Supplied

For St Joseph’s Moorebank parishioners Dani Gerace and Kathy Samuels, helping women in distress has been as much a source of joy for them as it has been for those in need.

Seeing the smiles of hope, dignity and self-worth from those at the local women’s shelter has been nothing less than inspirational.

Dani has supported underprivileged families through initiatives at her daughter’s school, using her hairdresser’s salon and drawing on Christian friends to fundraise for daily necessities, cleaning products and toiletries which were then distributed to women in need.

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But she felt called to give more to those struggling with Sydney’s high cost of living and its consequences for families.

“During the 2021 Christmas Eve Mass, as I sat in church, the Spirit led me to an article on the women’s refuge. It literally bounced off the page,” Dani said.

“I know I was called to help these women and their families and that’s when I reached out to my parish priest Fr Chris De Sousa CRS to discuss what I can do to help.”

“His guidance and support helped me to reach out to Hands on Heart.”

Through Hands on Heart, an action group of volunteers from the local parish and school community, Dani has since provided free hairdressing to the women and their children at the refuge and helped to purchase whitegoods for eight new dwellings built for women in crisis.

The action group’s volunteer efforts assist the work of Open Support, a community service of St Vincent’s Clinic, which provides care for those women and families at Liverpool Women’s Refuge.

Hands on Heart was started in 2018 by Lucy Andaloro, Kathy Samuels and Verna Tomac, three teachers from St Joseph’s Primary School in Moorebank.

In 2017, St Joseph’s was looking for support services for its teachers to help, and was directed to Open Support by Sr Anne Martin rsj from the local parish.

They held a spirituality day to benefit Open Support, with a fundraiser, but wanted to go further.

“After cooking food for the refuge all day and praying over the food, we thought that this ‘act of kindness’ shouldn’t just be a one-off thing, as the need for support would be still there,” said Kathy.

“So we decided to continue this gesture by forming an action group and get more people involved.”

“The services by the action group help the women save money of their own for other essential things—like shoes, clothing for both themselves and children, transport costs to court, and shopping—and gives them some independence to provide for their family.”

Since co-founding Hands on Heart, Kathy has run a grocery drive through St Joseph’s school and parish which provides groceries, vouchers and other supplies and services each fortnight to the local women’s refuge.

Moorebank parishioners, along with Sr Martin, also lend their support to the efforts of the action group through annual high tea and fashion show fundraising events.

Both Dani and Kathy say money pressures, skyrocketing bills and stress, have caused increasing violent situations in some families, as they struggle to make ends meet.

With one in four women and children in Australia experiencing domestic and family violence, support services have become more important than ever.

Open Support was founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1990 and provides crisis accommodation and support, to create a safe haven for domestic and family violence survivors.

“On average, one woman is killed every week by a partner or ex-partner in Australia,” states the Open Support website.

“What’s every bit as horrifying as the number itself is what it means: domestic violence victims are becoming a statistic.”

In this last year, Open Support has supported 32 women and 41 children who have settled into their own home, have found jobs or are attending education.

For more information on Hands on Heart, please contact Kathy Samuels on 0418 667 379 or for more information on the services provided by Open Support go to opensupport.org.au.

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