Hundreds gather for breakfast in support of London Abused Women’s Centre

London Abused Women's Centre executive director Jennifer Dunn addresses a crowd gathered inside the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel during Friday's event. Andrew Graham / Global News

Hundreds of charitable Londoners treated themselves to breakfast at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on Friday as they gathered for the London Abused Women’s Centre’s (LAWC) largest fundraising event of the year.

The 23rd edition of the event marked the in-person return of the annual International Women’s Day Breakfast in support of LAWC, a feminist agency that works to provide abused and exploited women and children with hope and help.

Proceeds from the annual breakfast fundraiser go toward front-line services for abused, trafficked and harassed women and girls, which have seen a growing demand for urgent services since the pandemic began.

In 2021, LAWC reported more than 11,700 service interactions, including more than 6,000 individual counselling group urgent support interactions, and more than 5,700 service calls.

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The event featured several special guests, including award-winning investigative journalist Cristina Howorun, who shared harrowing stories from her own reporting about human trafficking in London.

Local Indigenous activist and jingle dress dancer Sierra Jamieson took to the stage and provided a performance focused on healing.

“I wore the jingle dress, it’s a healing dress, it was given to the Ojibwe people through a dream and a vision,” Jamieson said.

“Whenever I, as a jingle dress dancer, get asked to come to events like these, I never say no just because I know that when people are asking me, it’s because they need that healing and they need that opening.”

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Jamieson shared remarks at the event that brought attention to the unique issues impacting Indigenous women in the country, including what’s been reported by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“When we talk about sex trafficking and we talk about violence against women, Indigenous women are ten times more likely to become a victim of those type of things,” Jamieson told Global News.

“I want people to understand that this is happening here in London and it’s happening here in our country.”

Londoner and reigning Olympic decathlon champion Damian Warner was also in attendance to lend support to the fundraiser by auctioning off a breakfast date with himself, as well as six-month membership to the Damian Warner Fitness Centre.

Those auction items ended up raising $4,000 for the event.

“Any support that can go to (the London Abused Women’s Centre) to do the jobs that they need to do is always needed,” Warner told Global News.

“Wherever I see that I can provide some kind of assistance, I try to do the best that I can to do so and luckily enough I was able to come out here today, have an awesome breakfast, be around some really cool people and raise a lot of money.”

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Olympic gold medallist Damian Warner and local Indigenous advocate Sierra Jamieson were among the special guests at the 23rd annual International Women’s Day Breakfast. Andrew Graham / Global News

Friday’s event, which sold out nearly a month before, drew plenty of gratitude and inspiration from LAWC executive director Jennifer Dunn.

“It means so much, not only to the London Abused Women’s Centre, but to women and girls in our community to see that the community will come together and support them,” Dunn said.

While the breakfast has come and gone, Dunn says there’s still plenty of work to do when it comes to tackling the issues that were front and centre on Friday.

“We need to continue these conversations. Conservations about International Women’s Day should not just happen on International Women’s Day, conversations about violence against women should not just happen on Dec. 6 or Nov. 15 or these days that we come together to talk about things that have happened,” Dunn said.

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Along with awareness and adequate funding, Dun adds that legislation is another necessary step toward ending abuse.

“Bring the voices of lived experience, people living right now on the ground in these types of situations, to the decision-makers so they know what change needs to happen.”

A full list of services provided by LAWC can be found on the organization’s website.

Those with questions can also call LAWC at 519-432-2204 and book an intake or speak with an advocate counsellor.

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