Published on March 10th, 2019 | by Gaelle Finley2
ROOKERY ROAD WOMEN’S HELP CENTRE TO CLOSE
Usha Khera started the Women’s Help Centre on Rookery Road in 1988. Using her own experience of migrating to the UK with a young family, she set up the charity in order to help empower women from all cultures and countries. After 31 years’ incredible work in Handsworth she still has the drive, commitment and strength no matter what life throws at her.
Recently however, life hasn’t been kind to her or her daughter Daisy who helps her run the Centre. The local they have been using for such a long time has been sold along with the former church adjoining it. And instead of continuing to charge them the charity rent, the new landlord has decided to charge them the commercial rent, which this small group can’t afford.
Dear friends and colleagues
It is with great sadness that I have to inform you that Women’s Help Centre will cease to operate on 29th March 2019. Therefore after 30 years, it is with great regret that we are unable to continue to help all women who need our services at 321 Rookery Road, Handsworth as we have done with the help of our grant funders and hard work of our staff and volunteers.
As the founder of Women’s Help Centre, which was only supposed to be a 6 months’ project in 1988 in response to the Handsworth and Lozells riots, I am immensely proud of what we have achieved as a charity helping women from all cultures, religions and walks of life. We have delivered accredited training, confidential advice and counselling over the years to women many of whom had English as their second language, were first or second generation migrants, were survivors of domestic abuse or were experiencing isolation because of family pressures and poverty.
Unfortunately the decision to continue our services was taken out of our hands when our good neighbour and landlord Trinity Methodist Church sold the site including the 321 Rookery Road premises used by Women’s Help Centre to the new group Arya Samaj Vedic Mission. Despite their receiving significant sums of HS2 money to buy and renovate the site for their religious group, our pleas to continue helping women from all cultures have fallen on deaf ears. Having been served with a notice to leave by the new landlord or tie us into a long term lease at a commercial rent despite us being a women’s charity, we have taken legal advice to accept a very small settlement which is going to help us with our final winding up costs, if they honour their agreement. This does not unfortunately leave us in a position to continue our services.
During the last two years our staff and volunteers have seen too much disruption from the new landlords, including their extensive building work and interference with our day to day activities. Our Directors were left with no other option. After more than 10 years of austerity cuts biting into our small charity we can no longer scrimp, save and suffer once our base and location in the heart of our local community in Handsworth is taken away from us.
I would like to thank all of you who have supported Women’s Help Centre overt the last 30 years and have enabled us to make a difference with our holistic, female only client centred and culturally sensitive services. Every client has mattered to us and we have tried to never say no. Through empowering women we hope we have made a difference and touched the lives of many thousands of women and families, some of whom we know have come to us at the darkest points in their lives.
Mrs Usha Khera
Founder of Women’s Help Centre Ltd
The Centre will be holding a Jumble Sale on 15th March to help them raise badly needed funds. Usha also told us that they have a variety of tables, chairs and various things they would wish to donate to local charities. Please contact her or Daisy if you are interested.