Heart Beaters: Spotlight on a cause: ACAWS

Credit: Kristi Dobson
Each year, ACAWS posts purple ribbons along Stamp Ave. to promote awareness for violence against women.
Kristi Dobson

Do you want to be a part of a small, compassionate group of volunteers who are working towards building a healthy community and improving the status of women? The Alberni Community and Women’s Services Society is seeking board members who are committed to the organization’s mission, goals and values.

ACAWS was established in Port Alberni in 1980 and provides invaluable services for women in need, in transition or in search of resources. As a non-profit organization, ACAWS relies on volunteers to support its work and ensure continued presence in the community for awareness-raising events. 

Currently a board of six members, chairperson Kathy Waddell said a few more bodies are needed to help make light work. 

“There are times when the board is required to volunteer at events, plan fundraising activities, review policies and form sub-committees for various projects,” Waddell said. “When your board is only six members, quorum can be an issue, too.” 

The group is also seeking fresh ideas from enthusiastic community members. There is a place for a wide range of skills and talents, but upcoming priorities include those with an understanding in second-stage housing, finance, fundraising, social justice and social enterprise. 

“One goal would be to have a diverse board of directors which would include men, LGTB people, First Nations people and people of many other ethnicities,” Waddell said. 

The board has been successful in helping manage the finances for the organization, on a budget that is dependent on donations and funding from the Ministry of Justice, BC Gaming, the Ministry of Children and Families, BC Housing and Island Health, as well as from grants. 

“In the past twelve months, we have purchased the Third Avenue location, participated in fundraisers, including the Tsunami Hawgs event and beer and burger night, attended the Vagina Monologues event (last year), set up domestic violence awareness campaigns, and are now reviewing current policies,” Waddell said.

It is from this location that staff can provide a safe place for women, men and children. Some of the services offered include: 

Children Who Witness Abuse: counselling for children and youth aged 3-18 who have been exposed to domestic violence and violence in other relationships

Community-Based Victim Services: support for women, men and children who have been victims of intimate crime, as well as referrals and assistance through the judicial system

Outreach Support Services: support for women who have experienced violence and accompaniment to appointments

Port Alberni Transition House: provides temporary shelter for women and children experiencing abusive relationships

Sexual Abuse Intervention Program: counselling through art and play therapy, CBT and psycho education for children and youth 3-18 years who have been, or are at risk of being, sexually abused

Stopping the Violence Program: provides clinical, trauma counselling and educational support for women who have experience sexual assault, violence in relationships and/or childhood abuse

Drop-In Resource Centre with access to a library, internet and other resources

Becoming a member requires only a commitment to attend and participate in quarterly meetings and being a member in good standing. 

It comes highly recommended by Waddell.

“As with any volunteer opportunity, the biggest benefit is the satisfaction of supporting an issue that is important to you,” she said. “You will feel connected to a group of dynamic people. You will open up your personal and professional network. Volunteering helps you gain new skills and experience. Volunteer work improves self-confidence and can boost your health.” 

The next opportunity for the public to support ACAWS is at the upcoming International Women’s Day celebration on March 5 at the Italian Hall. The all-day event features entertainment, demonstrations and information on wellness. For more information, go to www.acaws.ca.