25/06/2008 - 22:00

Not For Profit: Retreat to empower, rebuild

25/06/2008 - 22:00


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It's not often that a retreat to help victims of domestic violence is linked to a program that facilitates Perth entrepreneurs.

Image: Grant Currall

It's not often that a retreat to help victims of domestic violence is linked to a program that facilitates Perth entrepreneurs.

However, Tenille Bentley, founder of the Greater Good Foundation in Western Australia, has developed a concept that aims to provide such women with professional counselling, holistic healing and a strategic program for building both personal and business foundations.

Ms Bentley wants to build a not-for-profit retreat readily accessible to women.

"My goal with the foundation has been to create a safe, semi-rural retreat surrounded by 14 hectares of nature for teenagers and young adults who have nowhere to turn to and need professional counselling and psychological help for their abuse," she said.

Ms Bentley said the retreat would have a focus on youth development and entrepreneurial training with ongoing mentoring.

Under the proposed entrepreneurial program, retreat residents could submit business proposals to the foundation's board of advisory panel, which would assess the feasibility of each idea.

The advisory board includes experienced businesspeople and entrepreneurs, including entrepreneurial leader Sandi Givens and Daniel Priestly of UK company, Triumphant Events.

"The idea of the retreat is rebuilding these women and assuring them that they have so much to offer," Ms Bentley said.

"There is a core passion with the Greater Good Foundation of facilitating business development, and in my experiences with domestic violence you need something that empowers you.

"You need to shift the focus of negative energy and redirect it and rebuild your self-worth and your self-belief and channel some of that to empower people to piece together the shattered glass."

Ms Bentley has struggled to raise capital to get the retreat off the ground, saying prospective sponsors have expressed concern with the idea of investing into property first for a not-for-profit organisation, and not people directly.

Small Business Minister Margaret Quirk said while the idea was unique for small business in WA, it was too early for the state government to support the venture.

"The Greater Good Foundation appears to be very much in the developmental stage, and is primarily calling for donations to get the project up and running," she said.

"I believe the foundation has its heart in the right place and any effort to help victims of domestic violence regain control over their lives should be encouraged.

"Giving previously disenfranchised people the skills and opportunities to take financial control of their own lives control is a positive step towards breaking the cycle of domestic violence."

Projects like Ms Bentley's, aimed at helping disadvantaged women to start up small home-based businesses, are growing in number around the world.

The Nobel prize-winning Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, for example, is a community development bank established to provide small loans to poor people without requiring collateral.

Ms Bentley has called on WA's business community to help her raise funds to establish the women's retreat.

"I guess in a sense it is venture capitalism but I'm sticking to my guns," she said.

"WA needs a place where these women can undergo self development, re-schooling, business development and entrepreneurial training under coaches or mentors."


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