Shero of the month:Lucy Beresford

Lucy Beresford – our shero of the month, and damn, does she deserve it? (Of course, she does – that was rhetorical).

Our lady in shining armour this month began her business in 2015, ‘Refuge for Books’. This beauty of a company has donated more than 2,200 books to various shelters which provide a safe place for women and children who are escaping abuse. Lucy is aware of the courage and conviction it takes for a woman to seek help after being in such an emotional trauma,  and while the act that she has dedicated her career to may be small, it’s highly significant.

Lucy herself is a writer, as well as a broadcaster and psychotherapist. Due to this magical combination of talent, she understands the impact a book can have upon someone. She believes that books “could mean the difference between despair and hope.” We couldn’t agree more.

Craving Normality

She states that women and children who have been through this ordeal are “desperate for safety and compassion… 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.” Reading is the ultimate escape from reality, as you are engulfed into a universe which has been carefully crafted by somebody to ensure that you feel that you are right there with them, and it’s often said that you can travel the entire world simply by picking up a book. Not only can you travel our planet, full of its wonderful cultures and fascinating social rules, but you can also dip into various new worlds – ones we wish we could be a part of, and for a while you are. There is nothing more appealing to people who have had intense struggles – being able to escape the hurt. That is why Lucy has ticked every box. It’s about the small acts of kindness – it makes the entire world go round.

This brilliant idea crossed her mind when she was doing what we all do once or twice a year: decluttering the house. She explains that she planned to give her spare or duplicate books to a charity shop and jokingly named them her ‘refuge for books’. At that point, she stopped and considered the word ‘Refuge’, (as all writers and English graduates would do – we love to analyse!). She says that when it hit her that “Refuge is the national domestic violence charity,” it hit her heart like a bow and arrow. Refuge, on top of many other services, provides shelter to women and children who are trying to escape domestic abuse, and it supports more than 3,000 women and children a day. While it’s disgusting that domestic abuse is so horrendously common, it’s also a comfort to know that there is help out there, and Refuge does a bloody good job!

Supporting women by donating books

Lucy states that “tackling domestic violence is a cause dear to my heart,” which is clear due to her collection of published novels being informed partly by the work she does for charity in Delhi, whereby she rescues women from brothels, (I know: pure angel). “So, I thought, what if I could support women in the UK by donating books?”

After sharing the idea and beginning to grow for her cause, she is now receiving books from friends, family as well as complete strangers, which is a beautiful thing. People believed in her cause so much that they didn’t blink an eyelid or ask for scientific proof, or the psychological proof behind why these books would help so many people – they, like us, believed in her cause and got behind it. Lucy explains that when she has her friends round for tea, they will bring her a few books, but the surge of support she’s actually had is from total strangers “who hear about my scheme and who have donated from all over the UK.” Not only do they donate the books, but they also annotate them or add little notes explaining why they loved the book, and how much they hope the next reader will read it too. Though it’s a small thing to do, you won’t believe the difference this can have on the women who sift through these books. They feel connected with a brighter side of humanity – the kinder side, and it restores their faith, which can often be fractured.

The charity is now such a success that it has actually used the books to create libraries in some of its shelters, which has been received with glee and gratitude by the women and children within the refuge. The purest form of inspiration within this charity is the fact that the gesture is small, but so many people are getting behind it and personalising their kindness through writing. The magic of humanity is aiming to restore the lost faith within it by women all over the world. The simple pleasure of being able to read a child a bedtime story by a hurting mother has been given by Lucy as well as many people all over the UK.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, has stated that her company is “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.”

The Kindness Club

On top of the wonderful charity that Lucy is blooming from, she also runs The Kindness Club, which aims to promote random acts of kindness within the UK. This project began in 2014, and is a real testimony to Lucy’s caring character. She states that “kindness from others has really helped me bounce back,” and has tried her best to return these small acts of kindness by helping other people receive that same buzz that was so generously given to her.

She’s hoping that this year she will receive and donate more books than ever, surging her numbers in 2019 and expanding her service into both hospices and care homes. With the raging success that she has worked so hard to achieve, she has made it clear that she wants to create more libraries in places that need an escape, and that she would “like to set up a reading service, so volunteers can go into hospices and care homes to read to the residents and staff.”

There is nothing more magical than two people connecting over a form of escapism, and it’s sprinkled with extra fairy dust when the opportunity is glittered through acts of kindness.

Our shero, Lucy Beresford, is helping to restore the world’s faith in humanity – one story at a time.