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Saturday, September 20, 2014

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Project puts kids’ libraries in abuse shelters

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Montreal library

TORONTO — Act to End Violence Against Women has started a new project that will help women and children living in shelters turn a new page.

The organization is planning to furnish and stock children’s libraries in shelters across Canada.

Penny Krowitz, executive director of Act to End Violence Against Women, said the group embarked on the project, Turning the Page, because it wanted to create a peaceful oasis for women and their children who live in shelters.

Each library, finished in colourful and comfortable furnishings, will be equipped with a wide variety of new books suitable for children of all ages, as well as games, puzzles, and a computer with age-appropriate software.

When the children leave the shelter, Krowitz said, they’re welcome to take a favourite book with them to their new home.

“These kids have had a lot of upheaval in their lives, and sometimes they’re left with nothing. Getting a new book is important, because it is the beginning of a new life,” she said. “Research shows that children who are abused or live with abuse are often educationally delayed. This also gives them the opportunity to increase their literacy.”

The first library was opened in Montreal, said Krowitz, at Auberge Transition, a shelter for women and children who have been victims of violence. The next library, in Toronto, is set to open at Women’s Habitat of Etobicoke.

In a letter of appreciation, Auberge Transition executive director Irene Jansson said that the library “is without a doubt one of the best gifts given to the children and their mothers. This space allows them to be the children they are.

“I have seen first hand the difference this library has made in the lives of the children, and I know that other shelters will also see the benefits associated with this project.”

Krowitz said that one of the mothers at Auberge Transition said that she was touched that someone cared enough to provide something extra for them. “It made her feel worthwhile.”

She said that Act to End Violence Against Women has partnered with organizations and private donors to fund the project – each library costs about $12,000 – including the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, a national, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to encouraging, promoting and supporting the reading, writing, illustrating and publishing of Canadian books for young readers.

Krowitz said the group has also partnered with Shaarei Shomayim Congregation’s youth and chesed committees.

“We are willing to partner with any group across the country that is interested, and donations of new books are welcome. We stress that the books need to be new, because we want the children to feel worthwhile and special.”

Act to End Violence Against Women is holding a fundraiser, Turning the Page, Transforming Lives, on Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Columbus Centre, featuring Toronto Star reporter Barbara Turnbull, who was shot and severely disabled during a robbery in 1983, when she was 18 years old.

Krowitz said they invited Turnbull, a “journalist, survivor and self-described trouble maker” to speak because she is “a survivor who turned her tragedy into a wonderful life.”

For information and tickets, call 905-695-5372, info@acttoendvaw.org, or acttoendvaw.org.

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