Since its inception in 2015, Refuge for Books has donated more than 2,200 books to shelters providing safe refuge for women and children fleeing abuse.
The initiative was launched by Lucy Beresford, 53, from London, who is a writer, broadcaster and psychotherapist by day, and a book-wielding superhero by night.
Lucy supplies books to a number of shelters run by domestic violence charity Refuge. It’s a small but significant act which has helped hundreds of women and children, who were forced to leave their homes and often have to leave possessions, such as books, behind.
“Books are magical, wondrous things to many of us, but to the women and children sheltered by Refuge, such precious objects could mean the difference between despair and hope,” Lucy told HuffPost UK.
“These women and kids have had their lives ripped apart. They’re desperate for safety and compassion and have often arrived at the shelters with nothing - they might not have a change of clothes, let alone a book.
“They crave normality, the kind of normality most of us take utterly for granted, such as dipping into a novel or reading a bedtime story.”
The idea for the initiative came about when Lucy was de-cluttering her home. “I planned to take spare or duplicate books to the nearest charity shop - I jokingly called it my ‘refuge for books’,” she explained. “And then I remembered: Refuge is the national domestic violence charity. Among many services, the charity provides shelter to women and children fleeing domestic abuse, supporting more than 3,000 women and children on any given day.
“Tackling domestic violence is a cause dear to my heart - one of my published novels was informed partly by the work I do for a charity in Delhi rescuing women from brothels - so I thought, what if I could support women in the UK by donating books?”
Lucy receives books from friends and strangers alike and then, when she has a sizeable selection, forwards them on to Refuge.
“Sometimes a friend meeting me for supper brings a copy, but mostly it’s total strangers who hear about my scheme and who have donated from all over the UK, often with notes attached saying how much they love a particular book and hope the next reader will love it too,” she explained.
The charity has used the books to create libraries in some of its shelters, which have been greatly received by the women and children seeking refuge.
“One woman had the chance to read to her child at bedtime without other dramas intervening, and another woman had been empowered to start writing herself,” Lucy revealed.
Sandra Horley CBE, chief executive of Refuge, told HuffPost UK: “Every day across the country our services support over 6,000 women and children.
“We are enormously grateful to Lucy for her tireless efforts both to source new books and build libraries within our services - Lucy’s books bring joy to many.”
Lucy works hard to practice kindness in all aspects of her life. She also runs The Kindness Club, which launched in 2014, whose aim is to promote random acts of kindness in the UK.
“When I’ve felt sad or anxious, kindness from others has really helped me bounce back, so for the last few years I’ve looked every day for a way to be kind to someone else,” she explained.
“It’s no secret that doing something kind for someone makes you feel good about yourself, but it’s also a great feeling to know that you’ve helped someone or cheered them up in some way.”
This year she hopes to receive and donate more books than ever, with a view to expanding her service into hospices and care homes.
“I’d like to create libraries in such places and I’d like to set up a reading service, so volunteers can go into hospices and care homes to read to the residents and staff,” she said.
“Reading aloud is such a beautiful way for two people to connect.”
If you run a hospice or care home and would like to get involved with this initiative, email email@example.com or tweet her @lucyberesford.
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