Love letter to a donor. Love letter to you all.

I've just been writing a letter of thanks to the benefactor who pays almost half my salary. Looking back to where we have been, looking at where we are, and looking ahead to where we want to go, I am minded that it is a love letter as much to all of you, as to her. So I'd like to share it with you here. Consider it somewhat a repayment of my eternal debt to those of you who support us financially, practically, and emotionally.

Dearest (redacted), I think it’s likely time to tell you everything that’s changed in my life and that of the Aunties in the last 18 months, thanks to your continued financial support.Meeting you on that night almost two years ago answered a need, initially. Simply to be paid sustainably for the job I do running this organisation.

It meant that Ian and I didn’t have to live on our savings anymore, and that was just the first benefit of meeting you.I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t met you to be honest.

Anyway, here we are. And things have changed so much, not only in my life, but in the running of the Aunties.

I’m not sure if you are aware, but my marriage to Ian was an abusive one. He never hit me, and the worst of the psychological stuff had ended by the time I met you, but he was still abusive, and used coercive control. Money was one of the ways he did that - not by controlling it, but by endlessly nagging me about money. Where was it coming from? When was I going to get paid? I met you and that question was answered and I have to tell you that it made the rest of our last 2 months together before he died much much better. We had enough money to be okay but he couldn’t use that as a tactic anymore. And it meant I could reclaim some of my power.

Being paid a full-time salary meant I was able to focus on growing the Aunties. When Ian died, I was able to take a month off to just gather myself and came back raring to go. Because I was now being remunerated properly for my time, I could really feel as if this was my JOB. Not something I was playing at, but actually what I could end up doing for the rest of my life. That has made an enormous difference to me.I spent a lot of last year building relationships with organisations, and doing paid public speaking.I was keynote speaker at:- the Women Symposium- The PRINZ conference- The ITSMF conference- The Invercargill Chamber of Commerce Unconference- the Teen Parent Association ConferenceI’ve talked to many many professional and community groups in the last 18 months, and been able to participate and pay my own way there because of your financial support.It’s something I’ve discovered I’m very good at, and although it’s not something I want to do a lot of in the future, it’s really helped to get my messages out there, who The Aunties are, and what we stand for.

I have, of course, done countless interviews and formed a relationship with, and been able to make myself accessible to, many journalists. This has meant that when it comes time for The Aunties book to be published - yes! - there will be an audience of willing reviewers and good coverage of it in the media. We have gathered together 16 women’s stories of the abuse they have lived through and it will be published later this year by Penguin Random House, it’s called HerSay, and I’m incredibly proud of it.

You and I talked when we met about your patronage maybe opening the gateway to other philanthropists, and to be honest that hasn’t happened. What HAS happened is that our donations have increased - because I am fully focused on our mission and have built a reasonable media profile - and your financial support means that we are now able to pay Phil a part time salary for all the work she does for us. When we started getting more donations into the people account, it was mooted that I get paid more, but I elected instead for that to go to Phil, and we were also able to pay, from the people’s account, $500 a month to our treasurer.

We also have a team of 3 senior lawyers available (voluntarily) to help us with the women’s legal needs, and we pay a counsellor to work with our whanau of women.The Aunties women - 30 of the women I work with very closely - have become a whānau and it is my vision that when I step down, they take over. Because they are who I’ve really been able to focus on in the last 18 months. The Aunties now work with around 500 people a year, I work personally with around 350 of those but it is these women who are the focal point of our organisation.

And they’re doing really well.

Only one of them, currently, is in a relationship that could be termed toxic, and I’m working on that with her.

The rest are going from strength to strength, finding their light, and working in their power.

Several are working full-time, a number are studying, and all are looking ahead as they walk their own pathway of healing.

What are the plans for the future?

Well, the book will come out and I want us to start a radio show on community radio maybe once a month, so that the women’s voices are heard in ever more powerful ways.

We are working towards getting more of the women on the board so that they can see what governance looks like, and get experience in that.

One of them is studying towards a diploma in peer support, specialising in addiction, and it’s our hope that she be able to join us and work with some of the women who have identified that they drink too much, sometimes, but also to work alongside them as they work through issues raised by, for some of them, a life time of being around addicts.

We’ve started having whānau meetings with the women so that what they want isn’t just spoken to me, but shows up in our strategic planning.

I have started a partnership with Yellow in the last 6 months and they are looking at things they can pay for, for us. They’ve recently paid for a months worth of fruit and vege boxes to be delivered to each woman, and we’re talking about them paying for our counsellor, and perhaps a children’s counsellor as well. We’re also looking at teaming up with them to provide financial literacy and cooking classes for some of the women who would like to avail themselves of those skills.

So as you can see, since we last spoke, things have come a very long way.

And I can tell you, most genuinely, that likely none of that would have happened without you showing up for me, becoming our most significant financial donor, and in turn allowing me to keep showing up for the women, and the people in the community who may need our practical resources, or my emotional energy.

I would like to thank you for all that you have done for me, and therefore for this organisation, and the women who are our heart.

Thank you so much.

And let’s keep doing the do x

Yours most sincerely and thankfully

Jackie Clark

Lest we forget.

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