A safe place for survivors

Written by Hayley Godfrey

Eighty-one women have passed through the doors of Myriam Cottage; a place that provides safety, shelter and peace of mind for women who have all endured personal hardship in their lives. These women come with inspirational stories, including fighting through the devastation of mental health, sleeping in their vehicles, escaping abusive partners or families, lacking food, shelter and money, having no one to depend on, experiencing feelings of abandonment and despair. The journey to rebuild their self-worth, self-esteem, and sense of self, begins when they enter this sanctuary; the only women’s crisis home in the Wide Bay area which provides refuge for women in our community.
The services offered by Myriam Cottage include providing short term accommodation in a supportive environment by volunteers dedicating their time to help these women rebuild their lives.
Myriam Cottage is independently owned and relies heavily on community support and spirit for donations to maintain this incredible cause. Myriam Cottage is a place that is a judgement free zone, a safe space, and people don’t have to be on the waiting list to find housing. It provides safety and assistance to women who have experienced aforementioned issues, such as homelessness, relationship breakdowns, mental illness, and domestic violence. The people behind this amazing resource are all volunteer based and includes; Marie Gibbon who is the founder and the heart of Myriam, Alicia Wade, the president, Sonia Raco, the ambassador, Di Hancock who runs the house and a dedicated team and committee who help out.

The following story is from an interview I had the pleasure of conducting with these extraordinary people who generously give their time.

Sonia said “As a therapist, I have supported many women facing homelessness and DV. What’s important is for people to become more educated around what is abuse; often it’s not just physical, abuse is also mental and emotional such as coercive and financial control, manipulation, gas-lighting, isolation, words and actions and so much more. Our role is to help our residents heal from past traumas, give them a self-care toolbox and to understand that abuse can silence their victims and support these beautiful women to rebuild not only their self-esteem and confidence but to build a life that they deserve.

Alicia said “As a DV survivor myself, I had always lived in fear and anxiety for my life but I turned my life around and have now become a leading expert in Gratitude and Self-leadership which in turn has helped me live a more meaningful life and share these skills with our residents to implement the tools and resources I have collected over the years such use developing healthy boundaries, practising self-care and self-love and understanding our worth”.

The idea to establish Myriam Cottage was born when Marie’s mother passed away in 2016. Marie tells me “She had a burning desire to do something for her mother to keep her legacy going”. Marie always knew that her mother wanted to have a house to help the homeless and the less fortunate, so she was driven to do that for her. Marie, with her resourceful nature and skill, reached out to her family, friends and community to help her acquire Myriam to make this dream a reality. Marie explains that she observed her mother serving food to people in her local community, especially those in need, back in Mauritius; a country which unlike Australia, had no pension. Marie’s mother used to help the people who’d visit her. She would give them a cup of tea and something to eat, then when they were leaving, she would fill their bag with essentials such as rice and bread; she did that all her life, so that’s where Marie learned to share her things. Marie also remembers her mother buying lottery tickets at the end of her life. She bought one every week to get some money, but never did. So even though she’s gone now, her dream is still alive in death.

The most necessary things to sustain the survival of Myriam Cottage, is money, maintenance for the house, and some additional food items for the pantry. Marie relies on the local community for monetary donations and so much more. Additionally, Myriam Cottage is affiliated with some local organisations who give generously such as; We Care 2, who provide emergency relief kits with surplus food items and anything else that can be spared, the RSL funding have generously donated money toward maintenance of the property, government grants when available and local groups and individuals in the community willing to donate.

To keep funding going, Marie also recycles bottles, sells second hand furniture, and is always relying on the community to become resourceful in finding ways to raise money to support the running of the house, but most importantly, helping residents who are in need.

With the support of Myriam Cottage, the woman who experience the benefits of this sanctuary, embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing, which will eventually allow them to fulfil their maximum potential. As Marie says, “Be Love. Be the change.”

Want to donate?

You can find out more about Myriam Cottage at: www.myriamcottage2016.wixsite.com/myriam-cottage all donations are received with love and appreciation.