Grace Millane: Love Grace New Zealand launches to help end violence against women

The man found guilty of murdering British woman Grace Millane is due to be sentenced on Friday, and it's likely the headlines will be inundated with news about him. 

But The Project will focus on Millane and how her legacy will soon be life-changing for thousands of Kiwi women. 

Millane really loved handbags, and after her death her family decided to channel their grief into a project they say she would have approved of. 

Love Grace is a charity where people give handbags full of essentials to Women's Refuge - taking a tragedy and turning it into something with a lasting positive impact. 

After its success in the UK, New Zealanders will now get their chance to pay tribute to Millane and help women who are escaping from dangerous situations. 

Millane's cousin and founder of Love Grace, Hannah O'Callaghan, spoke exclusively to The Project about the charity and what it means for women who are leaving a violent situation.

"A lot of these women have to escape with less than 20 minutes to leave. And they're really good at packing for their children - they pack everything for them and not for themselves. So they arrive in these situations with nothing, absolutely nothing.

"To have a handbag with things we take for granted is life-changing for them. It makes them feel normal in a situation that really isn't."

She says the response from the public has been amazing and kind, and they've even heard from some women who have received handbags.

"We were never expecting to hear from them and we've been getting messages telling us they can't remember the last time they were given a present."

One woman had never owned a handbag and couldn't believe it was for her. Another woman has taken her Love Grace tag and laminated it, and she takes it to every support meeting she has.

The tag on each handbag with Grace Millane's artwork and handwriting.
The tag on each handbag with Grace Millane's artwork and handwriting. Photo credit: Facebook/Love Grace

Millane was an "incredibly good and incredibly gifted" artist, and the tag on each handbag features a flower that was drawn by her. Handwriting from a card she wrote to her mum was also taken to create the Love Grace logo.

On the back of the tag is a bit about Millane, what the charity does and a statement reminding women to believe in themselves.

"Because they do matter. [It's] to remind them that there's more out there, because they do deserve more," O'Callaghan says.

O'Callaghan believes Millane would be proud of the work they're doing with the charity.

"I think she'd want to get involved, definitely... and I think she'd be overwhelmed by the kindness of people."

Love Grace New Zealand

With the blessing of Millane's family, Love Grace New Zealand is launching.

The Project has teamed up with Women's Refuge New Zealand to help distribute the bags throughout the country.

This appeal asks for donations of handbags filled with toiletries and basic necessities that will help women in need.

The items each handbag can be filled with.
The items each handbag can be filled with. Photo credit: The Project

To get involved, you need to:

  1. Find a nice, clean handbag about 30cm in size that is new or near-new
  2. Fill it with basic necessities and a couple of items from the extras and luxuries lists
  3. Optional: Take a photo of your handbag and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #LoveGraceNZ and encourage others to join in
  4. Drop the handbag at your nearest collection point by Friday March 6 - a full list can be seen here

If you have any questions, queries or offers of assistance, you can email theprojectnz@mediaworks.co.nz.

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