Student volunteers support Kelowna Women’s Shelter

While many Canadians stay at home and follow physical distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, home is not always the safest place. The World Health Organization reports a worldwide increase in rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) since the beginning of the outbreak.

To help support this at-risk population locally, a group of Southern Medical Program (SMP) students recently launched an online awareness and fundraising campaign to support the Kelowna Women’s Shelter. We checked in with SMP student Stacy Dikareva to learn more.

How did you get involved?
At the onset of the pandemic, a local family physician, Dr. Marjorie Docherty, raised the issue of IPV and encouraged SMP students to come up with a way to address the potential lack of community supports for survivors. To address this need, a group of students with a shared interest in women’s health formed the Kelowna Women’s Safety Initiative. Our team includes Amy Dawson, Kyla Freeman, Remi Kandal, Tanelle Smith, Emily Wiesenthal, and myself.

What are some of the biggest challenges?
Unfortunately, one in three women experience IPV in their lifetime, and every week a woman is killed by IPV in Canada. Anti-violence programs in BC have also seen an increase in use of their services during this time. IPV is typically framed as violence against cis-gender women in heterosexual relationships, but occurs across all gender identities and sexual orientations. Physical and social distancing measures associated with the pandemic have further isolated survivors, and created new avenues by which abusers can intimidate their partners.

Kelowna Women’s Shelter has been supporting survivors of IPV in Kelowna for 40 years. They provide shelter, food, in-person and telephone counselling, safety planning, and outreach support. Unfortunately, the Shelter has experienced significant loss of revenue through closure of their thrift store and cancellation of fundraising events. Physical donations are being accepted in limited quantities in keeping with public health measures.

Thus, Kelowna Women’s Safety Initiative was formed with three goals in mind. First, our goal is to raise funds for the Kelowna Women’s Shelter and help support survivors in our community. Second, we aim to promote the essential services of the Shelter being offered to survivors at this time. And finally, we hope to increase awareness around IPV in the context of this pandemic among physicians, patients, and the public.

How can people support the campaign?
(1) Donate to the campaign: All donations are processed electronically, go directly to Kelowna Women’s Shelter, and any donation over $20 is automatically issued a tax receipt. For the month of June, we will be holding a silent auction featuring items from some of Okanagan’s amazing businesses, artists, and artisans. You may choose to bid in the silent auction, donate directly to the campaign, or both!

(2) Be an advocate and help spread awareness of IPV in your community. Follow @kelownawomensshelter as well as our initiative @kelownawsi, and share the campaign link

(3) Be someone’s safe space. Learn about abusive behaviour – survivors of abuse often feel trapped and isolated from their supports. Physical distancing requirements have increased isolation. Reach out to someone who may be at risk of experiencing violence. Survivors may not be able to respond freely around their abuser, so reach out in various ways (texting, calling, or social media). Help survivors access supports and find a women’s shelter in BC.

For more information, please contact Stacy Dikareva at