Impact and Stories

Making a difference in the community

because of YOU...

These women, youth, and children received the gift of safety! They had the support, counselling, and resources necessary to escape a life of abuse and violence.

This is the story of Heather...

“I promise to spend the rest of my life making you happy”.

This is what my ex-husband said to me the night he proposed. I was 20 years old. I was naïve, I was young, I believed in fairy tales, and I believed him.

Two years into the marriage he started drinking. At first, it wasn’t excessive, however; I did notice a change in him. He began by yelling, then throwing things. He started telling me I wasn’t good enough and blamed me for anything bad that happened in our lives. I tried to ignore the escalations. I tried to convince myself that these were normal ups and downs that happened in all relationships.  

I now know that I was just keeping myself safe, but at the time it led to so much shame.

When we would go out to social events, he would grab my legs, slap my butt, or hold onto my shoulders. Our friends would often say how sweet we were, or point out how much he loves me.

They saw his show of affection but they didn’t see the bruises he left on me. They never witnessed the crying in the bathroom.

Over time I became so lost; I was a shell of who I used to be. I hated myself. I was cold, I was mean, I was gone.

One night I woke up to him on top of me and the smell of alcohol on my face. This wasn’t out of the ordinary for him. I always let it slide, after all, I was his wife, I thought “Is this not our duty?” That night was different though.

That night he strangled me.

He held me down by my throat and his way with me. After he finished, he rolled over and fell asleep like I was nothing. I quietly went to the bathroom to shower and cry. Over the years, I often thought that the only way out of the relationship was ending my life. But that night I realized it could be him who kills me.

I was with him for six years, but that relationship changed me forever. I had no idea when I left if I was going to be okay. I had spent so long lying and hiding from family and friends that I felt alone. I had convinced myself that no one would believe me, and I wasn’t worthy of something better.

I was wrong.

My family and friends were there for me despite how I treated them. During the two years it took to finalize the divorce, my ex attempted to intimidate me and remain in control. But I was determined to change. I was determined to educate myself, to heal, and to find out if the person I was before, was still in there. Over time, I found myself again.

I know firsthand the shame, loneliness, and confusion that comes with being a survivor. SOWINS makes a daily impact for women and children fleeing domestic violence. SOWINS fiercely fights for the rights of women and children to live lives free from violence.


This is the story of Bonnie...

A story of hope, strength, and belief
I was at the top of a mountain in my pyjamas covered in bruises, tears flowing down my face as I clenched my newborn baby tight.

He disabled the car and started yelling, telling me he was going to jump and end it all now! He had it, he firmly had it…. the control. I agreed to everything, everything he wanted from me. I could not have any friends, cannot talk to my family, stay home. He wanted control and isolation.

This is an example of just one of many scary, life-threatening situations Bonnie endured in her 2.5-year relationship with a man she met when she was a mere child at only 16 years old.

He was older, good looking and charismatic. I was an awkward teenage girl lacking confidence and he knew it!

It didn’t take him long to get a grip on me and the abuse began. First, verbal, and emotional it quickly escalated to damaging property and then of course damaging me.
It sometimes takes women 7, 8, 9, 10 times or more to leave and not come back. Women need to gain confidence and they need to gain hope, strength, and belief that they can do this, they can leave forever.

It was because of my daughter that I left. This tiny six-month-old infant that gave me the strength to believe that I CAN do this, I can be the one to leave and never come back.

This beautiful child deserves a better life, she cannot grow up in this toxic, scary, controlling environment. It was because of her that I found the hope, strength, and belief in myself.

I called a friend, they got me out and took me to the SOWINS Transition House. I met all these beautiful women in the same situation as me. They were further ahead in their healing, but I knew that could be me.

After hours of counselling and a year later, I realized it wasn’t just my beautiful baby who deserved a better life, it was me too!

Many women can’t see past where they are. It is hard to do, hard to have the confidence and believe you deserve this because you have been told over and over that you are useless, garbage and nothing without him.

I am living proof that you can heal, you can have a better life, actually, you can have an amazing life!

Now, Bonnie is in happy, healthy marriage. Her daughter is grown and successful and her and her husband are raising their young teenage son. This is the story of Bonnie, but Bonnie could be your daughter, co-worker, neighbor, or friend.

Together, we can make a difference to these local women and families, together we can change lives!

Photo credit to Casey Richardson, Castanet News

This is the story of Jessica...

This is the story of Jessica who received the gift of safety.

Shattering the silence of the quiet Sunday morning was the sound of someone banging on Jessica’s front door, waking her from a deep sleep.

Jessica’s fiancé jumped from the bed and ran to see who was there.

“He came running back, yelling at me: ‘Grab some clothes! Go now!’” recalled Jessica in a recent interview, tears streaming down her face as she revisited one of her many nightmarish memories.

“I’m freaking out, not knowing what was going on and I’m terrified for my life – terrified.”

The person pounding on the door was actually an RCMP officer with weapon drawn who had raced to Jessica’s home in Oliver after her ex-husband had been spotted heading in that direction.

“I put on some inside-out pants and a tank top, and I had a bra and a purse in my hands, and I went outside and the constable grabbed me and put me in the police car because (the ex-husband) was coming.”

In the meantime, another officer began chasing the ex-husband in the opposite direction, but broke off the pursuit when it became dangerous.
“That meant he was still out there, somewhere, and I’m shitting my pants because I know what would have happened if the constable had not got to my home in time,” said Jessica.

“All I knew is that I could not go home, so I stayed at a friend’s place and then they took me to the SOWINS (South Okanagan Women in Need Society) transition house and they kept me safe.

“I was there for a week. They saved my life. Again.”

Jessica had reached out to SOWINS several years earlier as she tried to extricate herself from what was an increasingly dangerous relationship. For nearly two decades, the man Jessica had lived with since she was a teenager had subjected her ongoing abuse.

During that relationship, she felt as if she were serving a sentence on death row.
On more than one occasion family members barricaded themselves in rooms out of fear for their lives because of her ex-husband’s violent, often drug-induced, actions.

Jessica said it was only with the help of a SOWINS case worker that she realized she herself, having witnessed her mom being abused by men, was repeating the cycle by normalizing the behaviour.

SOWINS’ support has not only helped protect her from physical danger (she still does her vehicle safety check before getting in), but it’s also given her the strength to fight back, including in court.

While she does still worry for her safety, Jessica felt compelled to share her story to let other women know help is available.

“I’m not the only one. Everybody in abusive relationships has a story and every story is just so brutal, so if even one person sees this and calls SOWINS it is so worth it,” said Jessica.

“SOWINS has given my life value. They’ve taught me how to be in a real relationship and it’s OK to say no and it’s OK to say yes, too.”

Her advice to others living in abusive relationships is also simple: “Don’t doubt those feelings – God, don’t doubt those feelings.

“Reach out and talk to (SOWINS) first, because if you don’t you may not get out. They will help you make a plan, and if it can save my life, it can save yours.”

“Thank you for being a life changing resource for me when I was in a time of need.

Together, we can make a difference to these local women and families, together we can change lives!

Photo and story credit to The Penticton Herald 

This is the story of Jane...

… A mom trying to be her best mom!

Jane has a difficult upbringing growing up with a mom who had Schizophrenia and her life was very unstable, unpredictable, and unsafe.

At 15yrs of age, Jane tragically lost her mom and went to live with extended family. Jane was placed from a caregiver who suffered from mental health struggles to a family with addictions and there was abuse within this new home that she was placed as a young teen.

By the young age of eighteen, Jane was pregnant with her first child and at nineteen she would become a young mom!

Jane is working closely with the counselling team at SOWINS to do everything she can to stop the cycle of violence and stay healthy. She is connected with mental health professionals and the SOWINS team but is on her own with no family to lean on.

Over the past holiday season, Jane felt especially alone and defeated as she tried to provide for her young toddler. With the help of SOWINS, she was able to find financial relief and the comfort of knowing that others truly care for her!

Jane is doing her best to raise her young child and stays connected with the SOWINS team along the way. She is being the best mom she can be!

Together, we can make a difference to these local women and families, together we can change lives!

Rick – Director of Finance

Rick oversees the accounting and financial operations of the organization.
He is a CPA with extensive work experience in banking, construction, environmental services, and non-profit organizations.
Rick was also on the Board of Directors for several years with two non-profit organizations when he resided in the lower mainland.
You can reach Rick at or 250-493-4366 extension 112.


Susie has been working in the design and marketing field for the past 15 yrs, operating her own studio, with a strong passion for women-owned and small business. She is currently also on a planning committee for an attainable housing project in Summerland. Susie is honoured to help support SOWINS, and the invaluable work they do for women and families in our communities.

Sharon – Director of Strategy and Operations

With a BA in Administrative Studies Sharon enjoyed providing administrative support to SOWINS since 1993 and is proud to be a part of the client services that SOWINS provides.

Sharon can be reached at or 250-493-4366 extension 116

Korina – Director of Human Resources

Korina joined SOWINS in 2020 as our Director of Human Resources and brings with her over 15 years experience navigating collective agreements, policy, and legislation in municipal government. She is passionate about supporting the organizational greatest asset, its people!

You can contact Korina at or 250-493-4366 extension 110.

Liz – Executive Director

For over 28 years, Liz has been employed with SOWINS in various roles. Her first 22 years were spent as a Family Support Worker and PEACE Counsellor and later moved into the Housing Coordinator role. In 2021, Liz stepped into the newly created Director of Community Based Programs and Services, overseeing the numerous support services SOWINS provides to families in the South Okanagan. Today, Liz is in the role of Executive Director for the organization.

Liz can be reached at or 250-493-4366 extension 120.

Irene – Manager, Residential Services

Irene started with SOWINS in 2003 as a Practicum student and it did not take long for her to be hired as a Women’s Support Worker in 2004.

For the past 6 years, Irene has been Manager of the Transition House and take pride in providing client centered support.

To connect with Irene, you can email her at or call 250-809-6563.

Marni – Fund Development Advisor

Marni has been fundraising and raising awareness for community charities for more than 20 years. She manages all SOWINS fundraising initiatives, marketing, and media!

Reach out to Marni with any questions you may have about donations, sponsorships, fundraising events, media, and marketing at or by phone at 250-488-1268

Danielle Goulden – Executive Director

With over 20 years of experience working within the non-profit and academic sectors, Goulden is able to draw from multiple disciplines and professional experience to lead SOWINS into its next chapter of sustainable growth to meet the growing needs in the South Okanagan. Goulden believes that a fundamental component of any non-profit organization’s philosophy is to continuously strive for excellence through effective partnerships, collaboration, planning, and action.

To chat with Danielle, you can contact her at or 250-493-4366 extension 101

Sharon – Secretary
Sharon has been in business for 35 years. She has a Family Studies degree and an MBA. Over the years, Sharon’s commitment to her community has included the Penticton Rotary, the Penticton Chamber Board, and the Penticton Economic Development Committee. She is now retired and looking forward to supporting SOWINS with the critical work they do in the South Okanagan.

Erica – Director of Community Based Programs and Services

Erica has had various roles in SOWINS since 2000. Her passion for supporting children led to her working with families and children in the transition house and then to working as a PEACE Counsellor. Erica began to work in the Stopping the Violence program as a coordinator and counsellor. She then stepped into the role of Director of Continuous Improvement supporting staff to work from a trauma informed lens. Today, Erica is in the role Director of Community Based Programs and Services.
Erica can be reached at or 250-493-4366 extension 104.


As a communications professional with a business development background, Kerri enjoys bringing people together. Through her work in media and promotions, Kerri strives to provide innovative solutions and make meaningful connections for people and businesses. She looks forward to promoting and supporting all the great work that SOWINS does.

Sydney Bell


Sydney moved to Penticton in 2022 and is delighted to be living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley with her husband and two dogs, Nigel and Penelope. Sydney is a prairie girl, having been born and raised in Saskatchewan. After living recently in Ontario for a few years she is glad to be back in Western Canada. A registered social worker, Sydney has contributed to the communities she has lived in through her work as a community developer, program manager and various volunteer roles. She also provides counselling support to individuals through an online psychotherapy practice.

Sydney has a long history volunteering and working with organizations that support vulnerable women and families and is thrilled to contribute to the good work of SOWINS in her new community as a volunteer board member.

Working in organizations to address community needs, program development and teaching are the threads that run through Liz’s work and volunteer life. She has worked in community recreation, employment readiness and fire prevention education. Her skills lead her into the fire service where she worked with children, youth and adults in fire prevention initiatives in Penticton and Indigenous Communities throughout BC. Liz is pleased to be a member of the SOWINS Board and looks forward to being a part of a team that actively supports healthy families and communities.


Indigenous Tourism Association BC – Chair, Tourism Industry Association of British
Columbia – Board Member, Coalition of BC Tourism & Hospitality Businesses
As a member of the Osoyoos Indian Band, Brenda graduated as a Registered Nurse specializing in Indigenous health with a focus on community development, and worked with the Osoyoos Indian Band in the area of community health. Brenda is honoured and humbled to have been awarded the Order of BC in 2021 for her work in Indigenous Tourism.


Kayla is a CPA based out of the BDO Penticton office and has over 8 years of experience providing audit and accounting services to a range of organizations including municipal governments and not-for-profit organizations. She also has extensive experience volunteering with another organization that supports women through education and women’s issues are a top priority for her. She is very excited to be able to serve her community through the important work that SOWINS does in South Okanagan.


Jessica is a Senior Financial Planner at RBC and has been helping families and entrepreneurs reach their goals for over eight years. She specializes in business succession planning and estate planning. She has a passion for helping people achieve their goals and while sitting on the board of SOWINS she hopes to help women in need do so as well. She is excited to bring her skillset to the table alongside other inspiring women to help those in need!

Danielle Goulden – Executive Director

With over 20 years of experience working within the non-profit and academic sectors, Goulden is able to draw from multiple disciplines and professional experience to lead SOWINS into its next chapter of sustainable growth to meet the growing needs in the South Okanagan. Goulden believes that a fundamental component of any non-profit organization’s philosophy is to continuously strive for excellence through effective partnerships, collaboration, planning, and action.

To chat with Danielle, you can contact her at or 250-493-4366 extension 101