2022 marks the 50th year of Leeds Women’s Aid’s work supporting women and children affected by domestic violence and abuse. To mark this incredible milestone, we will be producing a set of blogs to explore our current and past work. Our second blog explores the reasons behind our 50th anniversary fundraising appeal for a new outdoor space for one of our refuges. 

For our 50th anniversary, Leeds Women’s Aid are fundraising to renovate the outdoor space at one of our refuges to make it a truly safe, fun and relaxing place for women and children. This will include refurbishing the children’s playground and building a new tranquil garden space for women in the refuge. Outdoor spaces can be vital parts of our clients’ recovery from the effects of domestic violence and abuse. This blog will explore the ways in which such space can help to make our refuges peaceful and reflective homes in which women and families can rest and recuperate.

When women and children come to our refuges, they have had to leave their homes, families, schools and possessions and sometimes move many miles in order to live safely, away from harm. Often, families come to us scared and feeling alone. Our refuges aim to offer them comfortable spaces from which to recover from the immense effects of domestic violence and abuse and begin to build new futures. Making sure our refuges have good quality outdoor space is an important part of making our clients feel at home there, no matter how long they stay with us. Such space can help women to relax and reflect in peace and quiet. They can also create opportunities for families and children to play together and reconnect following periods of great distress. One former resident stressed the value of a garden to her, as “a place I can connect with my children”.  


Outdoor Space and Mental Health

Safe outdoor space can be particularly helpful in supporting clients to cope with their mental health. Domestic violence and abuse can have immense detrimental impacts on the mental health of victims-survivors. Women affected by domestic violence and abuse are nearly three times as likely to develop a mental illness, with 47% of women who came to us for support in 2020 having mental health needs. Similarly, children and young people growing up with domestic violence and abuse have a higher rate of mental ill health than those who don’t. Many studies have shown the positive impacts nature and outdoor time can have on our mental health. Having access to a peaceful, safe outdoor space can have truly calming and restorative effects that helpfully complement the specialist, trauma-informed support our team offer women and families.

An imaginative drawing of a castle-like refuge from one of the children at one of our refuges. 

Imaginative Play and Cognitive Development

For children who have lived in the shadow of violence and abuse, playgrounds are also a wonderful space to encourage imaginative play in a safe surrounding. Our Children and Young People’s support team are strong advocates of the power of art and play in helping children express themselves and develop their independence.

Our team note that:

“The outdoor space will provide a safe space for the children to express themselves and will benefit their mental wellbeing, improving their physical and emotional development. Active, outdoor play also supports imaginative and cognitive development, helping children to overcome trauma, release their emotions and share their feelings. A new safe environment will also encourage independence and allow children to explore and feel free in a secure space.”

How You Can Support Us in Our 50th year

For that reason, renovating our playground has been a key focus of our 50th appeal project. With our playground now more than 20 years old, some of the equipment is well-worn and broken and needs some tender loving care to make it a safe, exciting and modern place for children and young people to create adventures within. The other key focus of the project will be to create a tranquil garden space, complete with wooden pergola, seating and bedding plants, for the women we support.

To make our vision a reality, we are fundraising to reach our target through a number of streams. One of these streams is our public appeal to reach £10,000 through supporters’ donations and fundraising efforts. If you are able to support us, anything you can give will be greatly appreciated. To donate, please visit: https://localgiving.org/appeal/LeedsWomensAid50thAnniversary/

To find out more about our 50 years in action, including the history of our refuges, please visit our special 50th anniversary webpage: leedswomensaid.org.uk/50th-anniversary

    How to access our refuges:

    If you would like some support or more information on how you can access our services, including our refuges, please get in touch:

    • Call our 24/7 helpline on 0113 246 0401
    • Chat with us live between 1-4pm on weekdays or leave us a message on our online webchat at: leedswomensaid.org.uk 
    • Email us at [email protected]


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