Meet The Woman Helping Families In Crisis Turn Houses Into Homes



Ren Fernando never meant to start a furniture charity. She and her co-founder Ben originally launched a running club that also aimed to do social good. But when the running group visited a domestic violence refuge, they were struck by the immense difficulties faced by women and children escaping violence – and they were determined to help.

The charity operates from a huge warehouse in Sydney, which is filled with donated furniture that would otherwise be going to landfill, and where people can walk through, selecting the pieces they would like to furnish their houses. Here, Ren explains the moments that changed everything.

Tell us about the moment that changed everything.

There were two, really. Run For Good started after a trip overseas to Nepal with my child who was then in Year Six. It was an incredible program but I came back thinking, ‘Why are we putting all this effort into doing good in other countries? Why aren’t we doing enough here?’ So, Ben [who I had met through non-profit CanToo] came up with the idea of a social good running club. We focused on doing projects relating to women and domestic violence, homelessness, mental health, First Nations and people seeking asylum.

We had one project that took us out to visit a refuge, and Ben and I were quite profoundly affected. The refuge was full, and we realised that when women did move out of the refuge, there was very little to help set them up with furniture. So, we borrowed a bit of warehouse space from [construction company] Built, who happened to have clear space because of Covid and we asked our friends and family to bring in furniture and stuff they didn’t need. We called it the ‘Heart and Home’ project and aimed to help five women coming out of the refuge set up their home. In those first few months, we ended up moving 50 families.

What do you wish people understood about homelessness and starting afresh?

People are shocked to learn that when people get housing, there’s nothing in it. There’s a belief that government payments come through to help you set up your home. And there are some payments available but they’re not straightforward – for example, only about $1500 of the domestic violence payment can be used on household goods and only at certain places like Kmart. That $1500 doesn’t go far when you’re trying to set up an entire house.

What do you do when not running Relove?

There hasn’t been anything else outside of Relove for a while! It’s been all-consuming. We still have our run club, and I have started spending time drawing again, which is really great for me.

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



Read more about what drives Renuka Fernando at PRIMER.