Pink Belt Project receives donation that will help expand support to women across Australia

Soroptimist International Bunbury president Rebecca Tichbon presented a donation of $2660.28 to Pink Belt Project founder Kristy Hitchens. Photo is supplied.

Soroptimist International Bunbury president Rebecca Tichbon presented a donation of $2660.28 to Pink Belt Project founder Kristy Hitchens. Photo is supplied.

A PROJECT aimed at helping women heal from trauma has received a generous donation that will see it expand from a charity to a not-for-profit organisation, enabling it to reach more women across the country.

On September 6, Pink Belt Project founder Kristy Hitchens received over $2,500 from Soroptomist International Bunbury to go towards the expansion.

The donation was made possible from a fundraiser movie night held by Soroptomist International on August 19 which featured a screening of the 2021 film 'Respect' at the Grand Cinemas.

Ms Hitchens said the move from a charitable to a not-for-profit organisation, with the introduction of an incorporated association run by a board, would enable her to be able to magnify the impact of the project '100 fold'.

"At the moment I have just over 30 women across Australia training under the scholarship, but the transition will mean that the impact can be felt more widely, for more than just one person," Ms Hitchens said.

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"I've got about 40 martial arts clubs who are onboard and offering scholarships, but in my mind in every town and city across Australia there's so many clubs that I could have connect with women in the community."

Pink Belt Project began in 2018 when Ms Hitchen's started fundraising to support her martial arts training partner who was escaping a violent marriage.

"I really wanted to find a way to be able to get her back into martial arts training and so the idea was seeded to fundraise to be able to provide a scholarship for one person, and then it just grew from there," Ms Hitchens said.

She said the project was 'loosely' for women in need, but in particular for women who had experienced domestic violence or sexual assault in the past.

What we're hoping to achieve is build their confidence, their self esteem, health, connection to community, comradery and all of those things which when combined help them heal from the trauma they've experienced in the past.

Pink Belt Project founder Kristy Hitchens.

A 2021 scholarship recipient from the Bunbury Martial Arts Club, who asked to remain anonymous, said she could not express enough gratitude for Ms Hitchens, the club and the project which had allowed her to participate in Taekwondo.

"Having had to move towns to escape an abusive ex-husband, the impact financially was huge. On top of an already fragile state of mind, leaving a secure full-time job and only finding part time work took its toll," she said.

"To be fortunate enough to now train in Taekwondo without guilt of spending money on myself is amazing. I loved Taekwondo from my very first training session in January and I still love it now.

Kristy Hitchens wearing one of the pink belts that scholarship recipients receive. Photo is supplied.

Kristy Hitchens wearing one of the pink belts that scholarship recipients receive. Photo is supplied.

"The sense of self- worth and the feeling of commitment, achievement and accomplishment can be best described as being proud of myself. I've learnt valuable self-defense moves and have felt the most wonderful feeling of growth and strength, mentally as well as physically."

Ms Hitchens said the obvious benefit for women as part of the scholarship is that they learn self-defense skills in martial arts, but that that was only a tiny part of it.

"What we're hoping to achieve is build their confidence, their self esteem, health, connection to community, comradery and all of those things which when combined help them heal from the trauma they've experienced in the past.

"Pink Belt Project is a therapeutic tool for healing from trauma, personal development and growth."

To find out more about the project and to donate, visit http://www.pinkbelt.com.au/.

If anything in this story has raised concerns for you, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or 1800RESPECT.