Charity Spotlight: This blog post is part of our charity spotlight series and was provided by Tara Monks, Community Development Coordinator at Armagh.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day for another year on March 8, we are reminded of how far so many women have come economically, politically, and culturally in many area of the world, but at the same time, we can’t help but think of how far we still have to go to ensure sweeping equality for both men and women around the globe. For many women in our communities, this year’s International Women’s Day theme, #BeBoldForChange encourages women to take bold actions to help women and girls close the gender gap and achieve gender parity, but for others, being bold for change can include making the bold and courageous decision to leave an abusive relationship and change their lives. It’s a bold move, but at Armagh, we help women and children do just that.
This is Lul’s Story
Full of hope, Lul* immigrated to Canada five years ago years ago with her husband. She was looking forward to settling into her new home and country, learning English, and starting a family. But soon after they arrived, Lul’s hope turned to despair when her husband began to abuse her. He became violent when he drank, and completely isolated her from their former life together.
“He never allowed me to do anything,” said Lul speaking through an interpreter. “I couldn’t go to school or go out. I had no social life, no family, and no community.”
Months of anguish for Lul turned into years. As she remembers her husband’s unspeakable acts of cruelty and humiliation, her tears flow freely. No translation is needed to understand her pain.
“My husband would threaten me all the time,” said Lul. “He’d tell me that my sponsorship in Canada would be withdrawn if I didn’t do what he wanted. I felt I had no choice, no way out. I was afraid for myself and my two young children.”
As things continued on a downward spiral, Lul became pregnant again. It was days before Lul reached her due date, that her husband did the unthinkable and told Lul that he would kill her, kill their children, and commit suicide. Knowing this was it, and that she was faced with a life or death situation, Lul somehow found the strength to leave. She confided in a friend, who helped Lul and her children escape while her husband was out, and ten days later, Lul’s baby was born in an emergency shelter.
Shortly thereafter, Lul moved into Armagh, a transitional supportive housing program for female victims of abuse located in Mississauga, Ontario. It was what she discovered there that was a surprise amongst it all.
“I was expecting a space like a shelter with shared facilities,” said Lul. “What I found was a home. The unit was fully furnished, with two bedrooms and our own kitchen and bathroom. I couldn’t believe it!”
“Day by day I take a piece back of myself and have grown stronger and happier than ever in the process. It is a hard road to travel. I still have the odd bad day and have trouble even thinking about getting into another relationship as I am scared, but anything is possible and Armagh helped me believe that. It has now been a year since I left Armagh, and I thank them for their support. They believed in me, listened to my fears and helped me build my confidence and strength. I am no longer so scared.”
At Armagh, we provide women and their children a safe place to overcome the devastating effects of abuse, rebuild their lives, and feel empowered enough to embark on a new life after abuse. As a non-profit, Armagh’s transitional supportive housing program includes supportive transitional housing for up to one year, individual and group counselling, legal and housing support, self-esteem, parenting, life skills and support programs, referrals to community resources, and outreach follow-up for women and their children for up to one more year once they leave our facilities.
“Once Lul and her children were moved in, we worked with her to identify her needs and set goals for the months ahead,” says Lynn Ward, Armagh’s Executive Director. “We assisted Lul in getting settlement supports, providing counselling and interpreter services, connecting her with local agencies and helping her enrol in ESL classes.”
As the only transitional supportive housing facility in Ontario’s Region of Peel, we’re there to provide supportive housing for this vulnerable segment of our community. Although Lul was hesitant to leave Armagh, she knew it was the next big step in her journey to a better future. Today, Lul and her children are happily settled and flourishing independently in the community and are now once again filled with hope—this time, Lul is hopeful for herself, her children, and a new independent life free from abuse.
“Everyone at Armagh has been so helpful,” said Lul. “If I had known that this place and these services existed before, I’d have left my husband sooner. I’ve felt very safe and supported here.”
*Resident’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
To learn more about Armagh, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page.