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Who is SARA

SARA FOR WOMEN: SUPPORT, ACCEPTANCE, RESOURCES, ACTION

We are a feminist non-profit society providing safe refuge and community-based resources for women in Mission and Abbotsford. We promote and support women’s efforts to achieve domestic, political, and social equality.

SARA FOR WOMEN: MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES

Mission Statement

SARA supports and empowers women to realize their unlimited potential and to live free from violence.

Vision Statement

To be feminist leaders in a just world where all women are respected, valued, and empowered.

Values

We are committed and accountable to the following values;

Feminism

  • We believe in gender equality
  • We stand for women’s rights, including reproductive rights
  • We advocate for and empower women

Integrity and Trust

  • We are consistent in our words and actions
  • We provide clear expectations for women and SARA
  • We learn and grow from our experiences
  • We operate with responsibility, accountability, and sustainability

Respect, Dignity and Compassion

  • We strive for diversity and inclusion
  • We commit to being anti-racist
  • We seek to understand
  • We recognize and challenge biases

Leadership

  • We communicate a clear vision and mission
  • We are courageous and innovative
  • We partner and collaborate.

HER STORY: THE HISTORY OF SARA FOR WOMEN

SARA for Women has a history steeped in grassroots action that has allowed it to grow from a handful of Supportive women into a multi-layered, equality seeking, anti-violence organization operating in Mission and Abbotsford with programs dedicated to helping women experiencing violence and marginalization.

In 1975, women all over the country were gathering in small "consciousness raising" groups. These groups were based on the belief that women’s empowerment is strengthened through solidarity between women. Themes like gender socialization, sexualisation of the female body, division of labour and the dynamics of abuse were concerns that brought women together. It was in this atmosphere that a handful of women in Mission established a discussion and social action group; they called their group Fronya. For the next seven years, Fronya operated a small women’s centre on Seventh Avenue in Mission staffed by volunteers and funded by donations.

In 1982, the group decided to focus energy into establishing a transition house for women and in 1984, the Mission Transition House opened. This first transition house operated entirely by volunteer labour and donations until provincial funding was received (1985) for three part-time staff and limited operating costs.

Four years later, provincial and federal funds became available to open and operate a twelve-bed shelter for women experiencing relationship violence in Abbotsford. To accommodate the expanded service, the name of the society was then changed to the Central Valley Transition House Society.

In 1992, as provincial governments were pushed to recognize that violence against women was a community responsibility, financial support for programming increased. Subsequently, the Abbotsford Women’s Support Services office was opened for women who needed support and information. The following year, Mission Women’s Support Services began offering group and individual support for women experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse, in or outside the family. Shortly thereafter, the Society began hosting the Baby's best Chance program, (to support women experiencing high risk pregnancy) and Children Who Witness Abuse programs in Abbotsford and Mission. To reflect the wider array of programs, the society name was changed to the Women's Resource Society of the Fraser Valley (WRSFV).

Through the following decade, the WRSFV, its employees and Board of Directors watched the communities grow and evolve. WRSFV staff were aware of the need for services designed specifically for women living and working on the streets of Abbotsford and Mission. In the fall of 2006, they initiated a committee to engage with street-entrenched women seeking to understand what kinds of supports and service were most needed by this unique population. Three years initial funding was secured through the Status of Women Canada and the Warm Zone successfully provided supports in Abbotsford between 2009 and 2020 when its service delivery was modified to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to operate in a modified capacity to date. Funding challenges for this program resulted in many of the WRSFV's most significant fundraising initiatives and bringing together segments of the local community to rally support for this socially inclusive program. In 2017, the WEAVE project, initiated for women wanting to leave the sex trade, operated out of the Warm Zone as a collaboration of three agencies: the Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver, Abbotsford Community Services (archway) and SARA for Women Society. The program ran from 2017 to its funded completion in the fall of 2021.

In 2017, the current name of the society was established to reflect a modern, upbeat and optimistic organization. SARA stands for Support, Acceptance, Resources and Action. No four words encompass everything we do at SARA but the new brand is grounded in empowering and building solidarity with women. Now, when women call us or we call them, the name SARA shows on their contact display. SARA is the name of a friend, a neutral word that doesn't indicate intervention and will not jeopardize a person's safety.

Between 2017 and today, SARA has continued to provide support to women and their children through the previously noted programs in addition to Outreach, Counselling Services, the Fronya Thrift Boutique, and continued support of primary, secondary, and tertiary housing opportunities. The years of the pandemic have shown the resilience of the team of women who, while managing their own impacts and challenges, ensured SARA continued to support our community's most vulnerable. A dedicated group of employees and strong board of directors allows SARA to develop and expand where communities under development with SARA in a lead role. Social enterprise endeavors are part of the current set of consideration for SARA moving forward as the logical next step in true empowerment for women. Community engagement ins the heart of SARA and the root of her existence and we continue to support initiatives like Purple Lights Nights, Anti-Bullying, International Women's Day, Black Lives Matter, the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation commission, Pride, Red dress day and numerous other social justice initiatives and observances.

SARA for Women provides free services and programs in the following areas:

HOUSING:

Transition houses for women and children in crisis, escaping violence or at risk of being homeless.

The Warm Zone – a drop-in centre for women needing access to basic services including bath and shower, harm reduction supplies, laundry services, internet and telephone, a stocked kitchen and support workers.
Extreme Weather Shelter – an as needed service provided at the Warm Zone when weather conditions demand emergency response services.

*Christine Lamb Residence – 41 unit supported second stage housing for women and children in Abbotsford, with access to counseling and outreach supports.

Santa Rosa Place – a second stage transitional housing program for women and children in Mission, BC.

Penny’s Place – housing for women active in addiction experiencing mental health needs in Abbotsford, BC.

COUNSELLING SERVICES
Women, youth and children can access a variety of trauma counselling services in Mission and Abbotsford offered in group format and individually.

OUTREACH PROGRAMS
Available to women and children of all ethnic backgrounds in the areas of advocacy, support, and accompaniment to community and government agencies.  Pregnancy outreach supports women through their pregnancies to six months after delivery. YAPPIE is based on parenting skills and offers a social support network for young parents following childbirth.
Legal Booth – Free access to legal information in family and summary law.

FRONYA
SARA’s original social enterprise project – a thrift boutique operating since 2008 – supports SARA run programs and offers training to women interested in entering or re-entering the workforce.

Learn more about SARA's services here.