‘You are a warrior’: Winnipeg girl, 9, delivers donations, hope to domestic violence shelter

A nine-year-old Winnipeg girl is raising awareness and donations for an issue many families have trouble talking about with their kids — domestic violence.  

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Eva Guzzo has been staying up late organizing and decorating gifts she gathered through fundraising for Willow Place, an emergency shelter that provides support services for people experiencing domestic violence.

“I think that if you don’t feel safe in your home, that you should have a lot of people helping you,” she said. 

Through social media and word of mouth, Eva has raised approximately $2,000 worth of items, including $500 in cash donations. 

On Wednesday, she donated the items to the shelter, which included self-care packages, clothes, toys and 1,500 diapers.

The care packages included hand-written notes with messages of hope, like “You are a warrior” and “You are fabulous.”

The donations to Willow Place included care packages made by Eva’s family with hand-written inspirational notes. (Jonathan Ventura/CBC)

Marcie Wood, the director of the shelter, says that she was moved when she first heard about Eva’s campaign.

“It actually brought tears to my eyes,” she said.

Eva’s donations show support to families who are experiencing one of the most difficult times of their life, said Wood.

“What Eva has really done here is taken an opportunity to not only raise awareness, but also to provide support that these individuals would not have received otherwise.”

Have open conversations with kids

Wood said it’s important to engage young people in conversations about gender-based violence, because children need to understand what healthy relationships look like and what it means to inflict violence on a person.

“When young people learn about it at a younger age, they have less chances of being a victim of it, or of being a perpetrator” of domestic violence, she said.

Eva first approached her mother about domestic violence after seeing an awareness campaign online. 

That’s when Eva’s mother had an open conversation with her that led them both to learn more about the issue, and take action.

“I always just say … try talking to your kids about hard things, and they’ll amaze you,” said Eva’s mother, Sara Guzzo.

“They take away … a sense of empowerment.”

Willow Place director Marcie Wood says it’s important to engage young people in open conversations about domestic violence. (CBC)

Guzzo says that her daughter’s friends, family, and school have all been very supportive in donating and learning more.

When Eva has conversations about her fundraiser with friends she says, “I’m doing a fundraiser for Willow Place, for family violence shelters, for people who don’t feel safe in their home.” 

Willow Place is especially appreciative of Eva’s help now, since operating during the COVID-19 pandemic has made things more challenging and limited their bed space. 

As a result of limited physical capacity, the organization has increased its outreach counselling and created a text line for those who can’t safely speak over the phone. 

Like Willow Place, Eva has decided not to let the pandemic stop her from helping others.

She put out a box for donations in front of her house and over time, from a distance, she has watched the pile grow. 

“Well, there’s a lot things you can’t do because of COVID, but there’s still a lot of things that we can do,” she said. “So I want to find something that we can do.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing family or domestic violence, you can call the Willow Place 24-hour crisis helpline at 204-615-0311 or 1-877-977-0007. If calling isn’t an option, you can text 204-792-5302.

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