Positive female community action happening in Sydney

By Destiny Tarasenko

Introducing the wonderful women of She Shed, a not-for-profit organisation founded by Rachel O’Toole and Christine Esma designed for women in the local Campbelltown community to gather in a safe place and connect with each other weekly.

These weekly groups are inspiring for many women in the community, with opportunities to speak publicly for causes that matter to them, share skills or to work together making craft, connecting with women of all ages and demographics.

“She Shed is for women, about women,” said O’Toole. “It is a safe space to come and be yourself, you can come and make a friend or don’t make friends and just do the craft or have a coffee. It’s the reason to get out of bed in the morning, it’s one thing, once a week to look forward to.”

She Shed, which recently ventured out into the community of Hurstville, is for every woman over the age of 17.

Christine Esma, Baber Rasheed and Rachel O’Toole. Photo: Destiny Tarasenko

O’Toole told me that each week She Shed is always catering something new, with numbers that are growing rapidly and other organisations jumping in, utilising the safe space to broadcast their charities and help the lovely women of She Shed with more in-demand services.

The two founding women discovered that during COVID, when the lockdowns had everyone extremely isolated, there was a dire need to recreate the blooming Men’s Shed, but this time for women.

“Since working in the schools during COVID, lots of the parents said we had cut everything off from them, they felt isolated,” said O’Toole. “We came up with an idea that not only the parents, but every woman, could come and meet in a safe space so we called it the She Shed.”

Men’s Shed is hopefully well known by now, a place that men can retreat to and connect with other men for their mental health. A powerful new age of respecting the men in our community and their need for wellness with connection.

The Meraki Foundation co-hosted the event which featured lots of winners. Photos: Destiny Tarasenko

O’Toole said that She Shed was birthed for that same need: a safe space women can come to and connect, a space that isn’t about domestic violence, or suffocated with children, but a safe place for women in the local community to retreat to as well.

Since then, they have significantly grown to over one thousand followers on their Facebook community page; O’Toole and Esma are astonished at how fast it continues to grow.

Currently She Shed Is generously sponsored by Campbelltown RSL and Costco.

“We would love more sponsors and are looking for sponsorship, so we can grow & be everywhere, with raffles, speakers, food & most importantly cater to what the women need in that area,” said Esma. “Whether that’s a work shed for woodwork or a place to learn cooking, we want to grow.

“Everyone meets at 9:30am and we have tea and coffee available, then we are on track and ready for a 9:45 or 10am start with a new guest speaker. Depending on how engaged the crowd is we then move on into our craft.“

More lucky raffle and bingo winners. Photos: Destiny Tarasenko

Sarah, one of the volunteers, graciously takes time from her morning to go to Costco and collect all types of breads, pastries and even sometimes a big cake for the ladies to raffle.

Each week is always different with free lucky door prizes, new activities, new faces and new speakers.

In the week I attended, the Meraki Foundation and Community First Steps combined forces with She Shed to bring the women a spectacular morning, filled with many games like bingo and a raffle with equally amazing prizes.

The Meraki Foundation is a non-for-profit charity that provides person centred and strength-based support for all people in the community, offering a combination of personalised support services and structured programs.

Community First Step representative Baber Rasheed does the rounds. Photo: Destiny Tarasenko

They personally tailor their programs to your specific needs: anything from mentoring, assistance into the community, supervised transport, supervised contact visits and in-home respite support to crisis support.

Community First Steps is the final big player of this wonderful day, supplying the ladies with food, entertainment alongside the Meraki Foundation, Costco, Campbelltown RSL & She Shed. It is a not-for-profit charity offering a wide range of services for children, the disabled, youth and families, with a grand history that spans over 50 years.

There are many non-for-profit charities and organisations in your local community. To find out where they are and how they can help you, get on board and head over to the Australian Charity Guide, they will be able to direct you to over 10,000 Australian charities.

Featured image: The wonderful women of She Shed at Campbelltown RSL. Photo: Destiny Tarasenko

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