Domestic abuse initiative launched

SUE FEA
Last updated 08:01 10/01/2014
Ailey Ong
SUE FEA/Supplied

Ailey Ong, left, and Susan Cheer with some of the paintings Dr Cheer has created depicting Ms Ong's journey through domestic abuse.

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A Queenstown hospitality manager and victim of domestic abuse is launching a national charitable initiative to ensure victims not only have a safe home for their families, but also a paid job in the resort.

Central Ridge Boutique Hotel manager Ailey Ong, who escaped a violent marriage in Christchurch with her three children in 2009, is launching Haven Trust with friend, Dr Susan Cheer, a writer who has published Ms Ong's story as an e-book.

Malaysian-born Ms Ong, who ran a multimillion-dollar outdoor equipment business with her husband, had nothing when she escaped in desperation after she and her children could take no more.

She has since established herself in hospitality and now wants to change "the system" that left her working at a Queenstown apartment complex in exchange for free accommodation for her family and struggling to put food on the table.

The two met when Ms Ong was looking for a writer to tell her story.

"I wanted to use my story to address the system. It was very naive of me as if you're just one lone voice, who is going to listen?

"I really struggled to find safety and shelter for my family. The children were 15, 14 and 9 back then. I needed to find a way to put food on the table before I could even get my head around leaving," Ms Ong said.

Haven Trust aims to raise $5 million to establish its first hospitality business and several residential properties in Queenstown to shelter victims and their families. The trust will also fundraise to operate business bases in Christchurch, Nelson, Wellington, Taupo and Auckland.

"It's not meant to be spoon-feeding. They will have to work and will get paid market rates. "The business has to be sustainable. The whole purpose is to provide immediate shelter and help and make these families self-sufficient."

Abuse could happen in many forms and it really affected children.

"I am trying to break the vicious cycle."

The businesses would have to be already established and the victims "ready to choose not to be victims", Ms Ong said.

Profits from the Queenstown business will go towards establishing the second trust centre in Christchurch.

Dr Cheer would also write other victims' stories, sold as $10 e-books to raise funds and awareness of the limitations of the existing systems.

"We hope this will help promote change in the family court system so that it's easier to use, fully supportive and protective of those who need it," Ms Ong said.

"We're asking people to make a gold coin donation to the trust."

Dr Cheer is also selling a series of paintings she created, each one depicting a stage of Ms Ong's journey from the "shock" of discovering she was in a violent relationship through to mustering the courage to escape.

Many Wakatipu businesses had already backed the fundraising drive, donating vouchers for everything from tourist trips and luxury accommodation, to beauty packages. 

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- The Southland Times

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