‘First service of its kind’ domestic violence charity wins inaugural Civitas prize

Project founded with housing association partner exemplifies the spirit of Alison Inman’s CIH presidential campaign.

Polish charity

The inaugural Civitas Community Prize of £5,000 has been awarded to Bristol based domestic violence support charity Opoka.

Launched in 2012, Opoka has since provided support to more than 1,200 Polish women and children in the UK who suffer from domestic violence and abuse – and also developing a programme for abusive partners.

CIH president, Alison Inman, has been using her presidency to highlight the need for the housing sector to do more to tackle domestic abuse, with nearly 200 providers having signed up to the campaign so far.

Opoka is the first service of its kind in the UK and was founded as a pilot project in partnership with Chrysalis Supported Association – a housing association partner of social housing investor Civitas Social Housing PLC.

The charity won the prize at an event in Manchester, where partner housing associations working with Civitas were invited to pitch to a panel of three judges for the £5,000 award on behalf of a charity or community project of their choice.

Chrysalis pitched on behalf of Opoka.

The charity provides specialist support with judicial, psychological and safety issues through highly trained bi-lingual staff and volunteers, receiving support from active fundraising, local authority contracts and Avon & Somerset’s Police Crime Commissioner Community Action Fund (CAF).

Aneta Maryla Mackell, Opoka co-founder and domestic violence advocate, who manages and co-ordinates the service, said the Civitas Community Prize was a “very welcome gift” to help address domestic abuse and violence in a community where such things are rarely spoken of – and more commonly swept under the carpet.

“As a small service, any funds to support our work are genuinely appreciated and we can assure those who have supported us that this money will be used to enhance service delivery and protect some of society’s most vulnerable and at-risk people.

“This takes us closer to an important longer-term plan to open our first ever refuge in the UK for Polish women and children fleeing domestic violence – this is one of Chrysalis’ key goals for the Opoka service,” she said.