Retirees fill up handbags to help Women’s Refuge

Woodcote Retirement Village residents Shirley Byrne, Ngaire Glanville and Ruth Cox with the...
Woodcote Retirement Village residents Shirley Byrne, Ngaire Glanville and Ruth Cox with the handbags. Photo: Geoff Sloan
A retirement village in Christchurch has taken part in a charitable campaign to honour murdered British backpacker Grace Millane.

Handbags full of toiletries, luxury items and essentials were packed by residents and staff at the Woodcote Retirement Village in Hornby who were moved and saddened by her murder.

Ms Millane was travelling through New Zealand when she was murdered in Auckland on the eve of her 22nd birthday.

Last month the man who killed Ms Millane was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 17 years.

Love Grace is a charitable campaign set up in the United Kingdom by Ms Millane’s family to combine her love of handbags with a push to end violence towards women.

The retirement village has taken part in the New Zealand appeal.

TV Three current affairs show The Project is behind the appeal and will work with the Women’s Refuge to distribute the donated handbags around NZ.

Village manager Liz Hampton said residents and staff at the village have felt very passionate about the Millane case and wanted to support women dealing with domestic violence.

About 30 bags were packed by residents.

“Amongst the residents, we have many years of collective wisdom," Ms Hampton said.

“One resident remembered a neighbour used to have bruises and people knew she was being abused by her husband but in those days you didn’t ask and there was nowhere to go.

She said this was happening in the 1940s-50s when women were often isolated because many of them didn’t drive and were trapped.

Ms Hampton said just because the residents were older, it did not mean they don’t know what is going on – with many of them having a lot of wisdom to offer.

Toothbrushes, soaps, shampoos, face clothes, tissues and chocolates were packed into the bags.

The items have been donated by the residents along with businesses, including Queen Anne Chocolate, Court Florist and Templeton Pharmacy.

“One of the residents has even knitted woollen beanies . . . sometimes women are fleeing with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Ms Hampton said.

Quotes including “nobody can go back and start a new beginning but anyone can start today and make a new ending” and “the life in front of you is far more important than the life behind you” were placed in the bags.

The bags have been dropped into the Hornby branch of BNZ.