Fashion designer Kendra Francis didn’t walk away with the 100 thousand dollar prize on Project Runway, but with her pleasant demeanour and drop dead gorgeous designs viewers found her to be the most likeable contestant. Kendra is still designing; she recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of her line FRANKE. But over the last few years, fashion has taken Kendra in the unlikeliest of places.
Dr. Roz’s Healing Place to be precise; a centre for empowerment and healing that works towards the eradication of violence against women and their children. “Last year they asked me to help honour four of the centre’s former residents at the annual Victory over Violence Gala by giving them a Cinderella make over. I took the women to BEDO and Town Shoes, made all the alterations and it was such a wonderful experience. Then they asked for my input in this year’s gala, just on a volunteer basis. “Then an opportunity became available to work here and I felt compelled to be a part of a centre that prides itself on truly making a difference.”And just like that, Kendra added community outreach officer to her portfolio. She’s been working with the centre ever since.
Kendra has been amazed by the women who come through the center. “I remember this one woman who was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. She was beaten daily by her husband at home. She went to the police in her country and was raped by the officers. She managed to escape to Canada, met a man and got married. But things went bad pretty quickly. He wouldn’t let her learn English, get a bank account or have any friends. We also had another woman who was in an arranged marriage. Her husband’s sisters would cut up her clothes. And he once held her over a balcony threatening to drop her because she went to the doctor without telling him.”
The centre serves 150 women and children a year.Most of them arrive with children and are given their own space for their family. There is lots of interaction with group meetings and programs. “We don’t allow them to fall into a depression. We have workshops, fitness classes, dancing and music for the children, we do everything we can to build them back up. Most of them are here from 3 to 6 months. In that time we help them find child care, legal counsel, affordable housing and jobs,” says Kendra.
The glamorous gala taking place this Thursday Oct 20 will raise funds to support these kinds of programs. Funds raised will also go towards building The Changa House; a centre for at risk youth. The Victory Over Violence Gala is hosted by Canada’s fastest rising comic Jay Martin, with performances by Juno nominated R&B singer Kim Davis.
Three women from the centre will be honoured for their courage and for reinventing their lives and becoming completely self sufficient. Come hear their stories, and hear from Dr. Roz herself; a woman who ran across China and Canada to raise money for abused women.