C/O Ainsley Thurgood

McMaster Aiding Women’s Shelters Canada sets up gift card drive for the holidays

CW: domestic violence

Domestic violence, also referred to as intimate partner violence, is an ongoing issue that has seen increasing numbers in Hamilton over the last several years. 

In 2019, Hamilton police responded to 7,090 calls regarding domestic violence and laid 1,657 charges. 

Domestic violence refers to situations of power and control that an individual has over their intimate partner. This can lead to abuse in many different forms, including physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in abusive relationships face an increased risk of being trapped in the same home as their abusers. 

At McMaster University, the McMaster Aiding Women’s Shelters Canada is a McMaster Students Union club that works to address domestic violence. MAWSC’s goals include spreading awareness within the McMaster community around domestic violence, raising money for women’s shelters in the Hamilton area and creating a safe space for people to discuss domestic violence and sexual assault. 

According to Sarah Coker, one of MAWSC’s co-presidents, MAWSC holds a variety of fundraisers, workshops and events throughout the year in order to achieve these aims. 

For the holiday season this year, MAWSC is holding a gift card drive for the Eagle’s Nest Association of Waterdown. The Eagle’s Nest Association, located only a few minutes outside of Hamilton, is a community organization that helps women and families. 

The Eagle’s Nest Association owns the HOPE Centre, which offers a variety of services, such as positive parenting programs, programs that help children understand emotions and counselling for people of all ages.

According to Coker, the Eagle’s Nest Association holiday gift card drive goes towards providing holiday experiences to the people who access their services. The Eagle’s Nest Association recommends that donors buy specific types of gift cards for people who access different services at the HOPE Centre. 

For those accessing counselling, the Eagle’s Nest Association recommends a Canadian Tire or Esso gift card to help them get to their counselling sessions. 

For those accessing coaching, the Eagle’s Nest Association recommends a Starbucks or Tim Hortons gift card. 

For those in a support group, the Eagle’s Nest Association recommends an Indigo or Amazon gift card. 

For children and youth, the Eagle’s Nest Association recommends a restaurant or Walmart gift card as these gift cards create opportunities for children to have fun experiences with their families. 

“They’re asking for gift cards so that they can give something back, so that these people on Christmas don’t have to leave without anything,” 

Sarah Coker

Coker reflected on the importance of supporting women’s shelters in the holiday season. 

“It’s a way to give back to the community and [for] a lot of people who may be less fortunate than you, [you can] give them that chance to experience what you might consider a norm in your life — to go home for the holidays and get a gift,” said Coker. 

In Hamilton, women’s shelters such as the Martha House, Inasmuch House and the Native Women’s Centre offer emergency shelter for women and their children fleeing from an abusive situation. All three shelters are accepting monetary donations on their website. 

In addition, Native Women’s Centre is accepting in-kind donations including various hygiene products and household items. 
Although they are not providing emergency shelter, YWCA Hamilton is another organization that works to find housing solutions for women and their families. YWCA Hamilton is also accepting donations including various clothing items, transportation cards, hygiene products, toys and games.

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