You’re worth it. You deserve all the best in this world ... love shouldn’t hurt you”. These are the words of advice to all women experiencing domestic abuse, given by Elaine Pavia, Head of Dar Merhba Bik, a shelter home for women experiencing domestic abuse.

Over a hundred domestically abused women, together with their children, seek shelter in Dar Merhba Bik every year. These women are re-empowered and supported to re-establish their independence.

A very strong woman, a main pillar for this organization, and a rock supporting all of the women and their children who are sheltered in the home during such a delicate period in their lives: Elaine Pavia is our inspirational woman of the month.

“Mvintage supports women and organizations that empower women and we could not stay away from giving our full support to creating more awareness about domestic abuse, as well as to giving our commitment to Dar Merhba Bik as an organization. Mvintage will keep supporting, and also encourages you to support, this organization long-term, in order to help these women during such a rough time in their lives. Mvintage is a brand led by women for women and we feel saddened with each and every domestic abuse reality that hits the news. Unfortunately there are many others who are suffering in silence and we want to encourage each and every one of them to be strong and to find the courage to stand up and say no to abuse”, said Krystle Penza, Founder and Designer of Mvintage.

Krystle met with Elaine Pavia at Dar Merhba Bik.

Krystle Penza & Elaine Pavia

(1) Tell us about the scope of Dar Merhba Bik?

The Good Shepherd Sisters - Dar Merhba Bik Foundation, has been offering psycho-social services since June 1980.

Dar Merhba Bik provides a safe and secure emergency accommodation whilst working with women, along with their children, who have been victims of violence, are suffering gender-based violence and/or are experiencing domestic violence. We work in order to help them establish a way of life which best meets their needs and helps them to develop their potential.

Our main objectives are:

  • Providing adequate, safe and secure accommodation for female victims and their children who are affected by violence, gender-based violence and domestic violence, at any given time; 
  • Providing a tailor-made therapeutic program for each and every service user;
  • Assisting and supporting residents during court proceedings;
  • Offering psycho-social services such as counselling, therapy and support to our residents;  
  • Offering psycho-social services to non-residents and/or ex-residents within our therapeutic area; 
  • Promoting the re-integration of residents into the community, mainly through the re-empowerment of the women;
  • Promoting the reconciliation with self, with family—in whatever way possible or desirable with society and with God; 
  • Assisting residents in finding alternative accommodation and starting a new life as and when necessary; 
  • Enhancing public awareness about the issue of Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence;
  • We actively participate on all local and international platforms on the issue of Gender Based Violence and Domestic Violence.

On the other hand, three months ago we inaugurated our second stage accommodation program, Dar Santa Bakhita. The program within Dar Santa Bakhita is based on 12-month period, with our ultimate aim to assist our survivors with independent living.

(2) And what about your work at the NGO? What's a typical day like for you?

To tell you the truth, there is no such thing as a typical day when it comes to my work. The nature of the work itself demands that I’m flexible to alter my day and prioritize according to the needs of the women and little guests, as well as the shelter, which changes from one hour to the next. My role within the Foundation interchanges between heading both Services and Administration. Having said this, like any other place of work there are tasks which are to be carried out everyday, such as being on call, emails, keeping up with our Facebook page by answering to the numerous private messages we get daily, administrative work, payroll, organizing weekly team meetings, training sessions, meetings outside the premises, preparing financial forecasts, hands-on manual work when needed, and much more.

More often than not, my day also consists of dealing with cases which would be more urgent at the time, such as an admission of a new case, or a specific crisis or incident which would have come up and requires immediate attention. And definitely each day I make sure to be available to residents and little guests. Although no day is like the next when it comes to my work, this allows me to keep residents and little guests together, with all their priorities at the centre of my day.

Dar merhba Bik

(3) What are the main challenges and obstacles faced by the residents?

Both women and children encounter numerous challenges and obstacles according to one's particular case when compared to a ‘healthy family’. The first issue which comes to mind would be that many residents frequently have to leave most of their belongings behind before coming to us. There are also housing issues that are a worry for every resident, as well as safety issues. In fact, at times children may not be able to attend school for a limited time, yet the aim is to not deprive them from learning.

We at Dar Merhba Bik have no one-size-fits-all plan, instead every family would have a tailor-made plan aimed at addressing all the challenges their case would present. Consequently, thanks to the general public, most, if not all material needs are provided to all our guests. And all therapeutic interventions are provided in a safe space.

Ultimately, I must say with all seriousness, that we are saddened by every admission, yet we praise each and every woman for being courageous enough to seek help, choose life and come to our services for safety and protection for a period of time.

(4) How do the lives of the women & children you meet affect you and how do you cope?

I may have a strong shell, with a big body frame, yet I'm very sensitive and fragile on the inside. I often deal with various cases that would require continuous safety planning, extra caution, as well as liaising with various professionals from other entities. Psychologically I continuously attend therapy to unwind, as I must admit that on particular days I am mentally drained. But after a good night's sleep or after finding a sweet note in my laptop the following day from a little guest at Dar Merhba Bik, my day is brighter.

(5) Can you tell us about a particular story you came across that had an effect on you? What was the outcome?

This is a hard question indeed. Approximately 100 families make use of our services yearly. Each and every family presents their own story full of colourful characters. Children are so much at heart and when I stop and think of all the trauma these children have been through it makes me sad! But then I realize that thankfully they are in a safe and freeing place, and I (together with all my team, along with The Good Shepherd Sisters) aim to make their journey as special and therapeutic as can be. Ultimately, the magical outcome would be having families moving out for a better future and returning back not to seek shelter, but to share their special moments with us. Our Foundation is considered by most of our service users as their extended family, always a phone call away 24/7.

Krystle Penza & Elaine Pavia

(6) What advice would you give to women currently experiencing domestic violence?

I fully understand that it takes a lot of courage to actually realize that you cannot allow abuse any longer, need to seek help or to file a report with the Police. Domestic violence takes various forms, starting with control and manipulation, shame and blame, to stalking, harassment, intimacy without consent, physical, psychological and financial abuse, to say the least. The perpetrator may not necessarily be your husband, partner or boyfriend, but a cohabitant, as well as a family member who once said “I love you”. Getting to know your rights and seeking help does not necessarily mean that your relationship is over, and separation proceedings shall kick in. Seeking help means that both the victim, as well as the perpetrator, need to actually understand that they cannot keep on with the current situation, and need to work on individual goals for a better future if possible.

To you are reading this blog, YOU ARE WORTH IT, YOU DESERVE ALL THE BEST IN THIS WORLD, AND LOVE SHOULD NOT HURT YOU. So give us a call on 21440035 or drop a line in a private message on our Facebook Page, Dar Merhba Bik Foundation, and we will be able to guide you in the best possible way. By being guided, you are not reporting to the police, it is at one's discretion to make a police report.

(7) How can people support the organisation?

The public can support us in various ways. We accept all types of donations (excluding men's clothing). Having said so, a call prior to delivering the donation would be greatly appreciated, reason being that at times we are out of storage space, which is a great thing, or we might be undergoing a lockdown period for safety reasons.

As an NGO, finances are always our main headache, as to keep up with all the professional fees and the day-to-day living of 14 families is no joke, therefore every euro counts and is indeed appreciated.

Monetary donations may be donated through the following means:

  • Coming directly to our shelter in Balzan: 130, Birbal Street, Balzan, BZN 9014
  • By sending a cheque payable to Dar Merhba Bik Foundation to our postal address: 130, Birbal Street, Balzan, BZN 9014
  • Internet banking to IBAN: MT53MMEB44118000000011069424003
  • Via Revolut on: 00356 79217126 (Benefactors details would be appreciated so that we would be able to forward a receipt but we also respect ones anonymity)

Thank you ❤