At a time of year when many focus on family closeness, women and children seeking refuge at Nelson’s Aimee Beaulieu Transition House could use the gift of kindness.
“The families we see here are displaced,” said coordinator Anna Maskerine. “They’ve fled their homes because of abuse and they’re staying with us over Christmas. So we try and normalize that as much as possible and give them a happy way to spend that time with us.”
In partnership with Kootenai Moon, a gift giving is hosted every year in support of local women and children. Called Anonymous Angels, a request can be selected from a tree at the home furnishing store on 115 Hall Street. Aimee Beaulieu Transition House staff will safely and anonymously deliver the gifts. Kootenai Moon then gives the ornament attached to the gift tag to the donor.
“Women and kids have come here and maybe for safety reasons have had to lose contact with the people they’re close to,” said Maskerine. “Even without that, they’re here and needing lots of support for the experience they’ve had.”
Gender-based violence rates are no different in Nelson than in other communities. According to Maskerine, one in three women report experiencing some form of abuse. The Transition House, named in memory of Aimee Beaulieu, and her twins who were killed in 1992 is “typically full” which speaks to the prevalence.
The program of Nelson Community Services provides emergency services for women and their children in crisis. Their confidential 24-hour services provide shelter, support counseling, information referrals, practical assistance and follow-up services.
Still, the support of the greater community is invaluable, said Maskerine.
“I think whenever community reaches out in that supportive, caring way, it really does expand our safety net around women. They know there are people in the community that really care and want to help them through this trying time.”
Friday represents an opportunity for Nelson and other communities across the country to reflect on the occurrence of violence against women and stand up against it.
The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was established by parliament to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 Ecole Polytechnique Massacre in which 14 women were singled out for their gender and killed.
“That massacre was a grizzly and horrendous depiction of gender violence,” said Maskerine. “We don’t want to forget that… It’s an opportunity for women to come together to remember that event but also to be reminded it’s happening in our community — even as we stand in the vigil that night, it’s happening to women in our community — and that’s the part that we need to keep present in the minds of community members.”
The Nelson Violence against Women in Relationships Committee (VAWIR), a committee made up of representatives from community and justice agencies, is planning a three-pronged event to mark the day.
Throughout Friday, an “I Am One” display will be available for viewing on the grounds of City Hall. At 2 p.m., a video and discussion will be held and at 4 p.m., a candlelight vigil will commence at City Hall. Nelson Police Chief Wayne Holland will speak and Bessie Wapp will provide music.
Anyone needing the support of Transition House can contact them at 250-354-HELP (4357).