Women's Refuge Expansion Boost

The Bury St Edmunds Women's Refuge has built a conservatory extension to create a family dining room and an easy to clean area for arts and crafts.

The project was made possible thanks to a £10,000 donation from East Anglian housing developer Hopkins Homes who also helped co-ordinate the build. Funding also came from several other groups including £5,000 raised by the former St Edmundsbury Mayor Patrick Chung, Abbey Rotary Club and St Edmundsbury councillor Sarah Stamp's locality budget.

Annie Munson, chief executive of Bury Women's Aid Centre, the charity which runs the refuge, said it is incredibly grateful to those who supported them. "It is the space more than anything that will benefit us," she said. "It is dining space so families can enjoy a proper meal together around the table. Dinner time is often a trigger point and can be a very bad time for families before they come here, so it gives them a chance to have a proper meal together and enjoy family time." The conservatory extension means families sheltered at the refuge can all eat together, instead of on a rota basis, and it also doubles as an easy-to-clean space for arts and crafts activities. Ms Munson added: "It is just a fabulous space. Without Hopkins Homes we would probably still be fundraising for it now with the aim of opening next year, so their help, not just with money, has been brilliant."

Hopkins decided to help the project after a visit to the refuge by James Hopkins and his wife Selina Hopkins. Selina, who represented Hopkins Homes at the opening, said "We are very pleased to see our donation has already had a significant impact at the Bury St Edmunds Woman's Aid Centre. The refuge works tirelessly to support and shelter women and children from domestic abuse. Their support is essential to the lives and well-being of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities."

The refuge helps shelter victims of domestic abuse and their families, and can house up to 23 women and children at one time.

The charity also offers a range of counselling and outreach programmes, which help upwards of 70 people every week from the west Suffolk area.

The growing demand for the outreach services means the refuge is making 'big plans' for the future. "We are hoping to move most of our services to a town centre location." said Ms Munson.

"We are already having to hire a place out for one of our weekly groups, we just do not have the space to offer the services we would like to."