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
SARA supports and empowers women to realize their unlimited potential and to live free from violence.
To be feminist leaders in a just world where all women are respected, valued, and empowered.
We are committed and accountable to the following values;
- 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
- 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, formerly known as the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley (WRSFV), has a history steeped in grassroots action that has allowed it to grow from a handful of concerned women into a multi-layered, equality seeking, and anti-violence organization with sites in Mission and Abbotsford dedicated to helping women who experience violence and marginalization.
In 1975, women all over the country were gathering in small groups called 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 their energy into establishing a Mission Transition House for women that opened in 1984. The first transition house was operated entirely by volunteer labour and donations until 1985, when provincial funding was attained for three part-time staff and limited operating costs.
Four years later in 1989, provincial and federal funds became available to open and operate a twelve-bed shelter for abused women 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 was 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 who had been victims of incest, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
In 1993 the Society began hosting the Baby’s Best Chance program (designed to support women experiencing a high risk pregnancy) as well as Children Who Witness Abuse programs in Abbotsford and Mission. In order to reflect the wider array of programs offered, the society name was changed to the Women’s Resource Society of the Fraser Valley.
In January 2007 WRSFV acquired the Santa Rosa apartment building in Mission and an amazing process of cleaning, refurbishing and furnishing began. Volunteers and staff worked side by side to provide a clean, safe, affordable home for women and their children. Within three months women and children started moving in.
In the spring of 2007 a store front on First Avenue in Mission became available and Fronya's Thrift Boutique came into existence. Carol Thorpe created, with her band of volunteers, an amazing store filled with wonderful clothes at great prices, while providing a work experience for the volunteers and outreach to vulnerable women, and a valuable social enterprise for SARA.
A new program, the Warm Zone, opened in 2009. WRSFV staff were aware of the need for services designed specifically for women living and working on the streets of Abbotsford and Mission. They initiated a research committee to reach out to street-entrenched women during the fall of 2006, approaching women, inviting their engagement, and asking them what kinds of supports and services would meet their needs best. Next they secured funding from Fraser Health; the Warm Zone has successfully operated in Abbotsford since 2009.
Also in 2009, the Board approved an agreement with BC Housing to purchase a house in Abbotsford which subsequently became known as Penny's Place. This house, which is owned by BC Housing and managed by SARA, provides safe, supported and affordable housing for women.
In December 2010 work commenced on a Clearbrook Road site for a 41-unit housing project. From start to finish it took approximately 18 months to build and furnish, coming in on time and a little under budget. The team of architects, consultants, and companies that brought this project into existence did amazing work and this was probably one of the most effective and positive groups to take on such a project, they embodied the term "dream team". At the April 2011, construction celebration, the building was officially named in honour and memory of Christine Lamb, the first woman elected to the Matsqui council.
In 2017 the WEAVE project was initiated for women who want to leave the sex trade. It operates out of the Warm Zone and is a collaboration of three agencies: the lead organization is The Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver (EFry) that is acting as the contracted service provider in a three agency delivery model: EFry, Abbotsford Community Services (ACS) and SARA for Women (SARA).
In 2017, the name of the Society was changed to the SARA for Women Society. SARA stands for Support, Acceptance, Resources, Action. No four words can encompass everything we now do at SARA, but the new brand is more modern, upbeat, and optimistic as we’re still all about empowering women and solidarity with women. Now, when women call us, or we call them, the name SARA will pop up on their call display. SARA is the name of another friend, a neutral word that won’t tip off abusers. SARA now operates nine sites in Mission and Abbotsford. Learn more about SARA’s services here.