"Beautiful to see the effort from King's"
March 10, 2020
On February 20, 2020, the King’s community recently made a large and well-received donation to SafeSpace London, a volunteer-run, non-profit organization that acts as a support centre for sex workers, allies, and women in crisis.
In December 2019, Dr. Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray, Sessional Instructor for Philosophy, Women’s Studies, and Social Justice & Peace Studies (SJPS) at King’s noticed a needs list posted on the SafeSpace London Facebook page. She saw the opportunity for “a great activism exercise” and “a way to introduce the students to SafeSpace and what they do for women in London, and have some deep dialogue about how we respect the choices of others even if they are not our own.”
After discussing the idea of gathering donations for SafeSpace with Dr. Allyson Larkin, SJPS Program Coordinator, Dr. Baltzer-Jaray created an information sheet about SafeSpace, copied the needs list and distributed both to her Women’s Studies class.
Dr. Baltzer-Jaray explains “the topic of sex work comes up in our 1020E Women’s Studies course (i.e., understanding the spectrum of choice associated with it and the various roles), as do the related topics of body integrity and the meaning of choice.”
“Giving students the opportunities to make an impact, get involved and start actively connecting their passions to groups in London - that's what really is transformative. Being introduced to a support centre that is sex-positive, empowering and shines the light on groups of women often excluded from society’s conversations was incredible,” says Keyana Zimoch, First-Year SJPS.
The activity was voluntary and the students who participated received course activism points. Approximately three-quarters of her students and many King’s faculty and staff participated, donating packs of paper towels, toilet paper and sanitary products, sheets and blankets, hand-knitted hats, makeup, granola bars and juices, and a suitcase filled with clothing and toiletries.
“We filled two SUVs with donations,” says Dr. Baltzer-Jaray. She received support from Denise Cooke, Administrative Assistant to Academic Departments/Chairs, who collected donations on the days Dr. Baltzer-Jaray was not on campus, and from two students Amna Seyam and Christal Malone, first-year Thanatology and SJPS students, who helped consolidate and pack the donations.
“Seeing the combined generosity of facility, staff, and my peers during this donation drive has affirmed my sense of belonging and well-being at King’s,” says Malone.
The volunteers at SafeSpace were happy to receive the donations. A SafeSpace coordinator said many of the items donated had been in short supply. “It was beautiful to see the effort from King’s,” she says.
“It was such a happy moment and it felt good to see what we were able to accomplish together. These items – very basic things – help the women who drop-in to SafeSpace. At its core, this activity is about human dignity and making sure those struggling have access to the basic necessities. It also illustrates how situations like poverty, homelessness, addiction, and mental health can affect women differently,” says Dr. Baltzer-Jaray.
For more information on SafeSpace London, please visit https://www.safespacelondon.ca/.