Yvonne Copley is the Executive Director and founder of Kyra, an organisation run for women by women in York which provides a safe, supportive haven without judgement or expectations. Yvonne led the establishment of Kyra in 2015. Working in a high-profile role in the prison rehabilitation service and as a volunteer with Samaritans in York, she had a growing conviction that there was a serious gap in services for women ‘post crisis’, when state-funded rehabilitative support and therapies for issues such as domestic abuse, alcohol and drug dependency or depression came to an end – “there didn’t seem to be anywhere to help women to rebuild their lives”. Yvonne felt strongly there was a need for a ‘follow on’ service to provide ongoing care “to prevent women from relapsing emotionally and physically.”
Consultations with voluntary sector organisations in York confirmed that this gap was indeed very real. Yvonne made the life-changing decision to leave her paid job in order to set up Kyra and run the organisation on a purely voluntary basis, with support from other volunteers from York. Kyra began purely as a drop-in centre for women to be able to come and connect with others and – significantly – be accepted ‘where they were’ and listened to when they needed it. Nearly five years on, Kyra now has over 1100 members – a number that is steadily growing, demonstrating the continued need for its services. All women over the age of 17 are welcome and remain members for as long as they need. In return they are free to attend bi-weekly drop-in sessions, take courses to promote their self-esteem and resilience, and gain practical skills in areas such as computing or cookery and receive holistic therapies.
Yvonne says that Kyra has made a palpable difference to women in York: “I know we have saved lives. There are women that have said ‘if it wasn’t for Kyra I would not still be here.’” She underplays her role, wanting to send the message that if others also put in time, energy and passion anything is possible: ‘if you really believe in something just go for it – there’s nothing to lose.’ Yet the genuine gratitude and positive changes to women’s lives speak volumes about Yvonne’s enormous contribution to York.