A BRAVE mum who survived horrific domestic abuse is helping others escape violent relationships – one chair at a time.

After being forced to leave her entire life behind with nothing but her four-day-old baby, Leanne Kennedy, 29, knew she wanted to make sure no victim sufferes the nightmare ordeal she did.

Her traumatising experience triggered the inspiring idea to set up a charity that gave survivors a place to start rebuilding their life by offering free or cheap furniture to get them back on their feet.

Free for Fuel uses items that were doomed to face a landfill and then gives them a new purpose and life for people who need a fresh start.

But now Leanne is terrified she is going to give up the lifechanging work due to a lack of space available.

Currently she has a shop set up in Catrine which she has had to close due to overcrowding.

Leanne and her supportive partner Brian Riedel ,41, are hoping to raise enough funds to make sure they can stay open and help even more people by moving into a giant container in Cumnock.

She said: “I fled domestic abuse on March 2016 with my youngest son who was just four days old.

“I had a police woman and social services offer to help me or take my baby off me if I went back to my abusive partner.

“I had to leave behind everything.

Cumnock Chronicle:

“My furniture, my home, and my entire life. I had to rebuild it all from nothing.

“When I finally got back on my feet it made me wonder how many other families would have suffered like I did and I knew I wanted to help.

“Could you imagine the following as this is reality, being repeatedly beaten, name called, and slandered.

“Then wanting to leave the abuse but have nowhere to go.

“You stay having nowhere to go and then the children become victims as they lie in bed terrified at what is happening downstairs as they hear it all.”

“I never judge anyone, you never know what’s around the corner it could honestly happen to anyone.

“I worked right up until I had my baby I went to having everything to having absolutely nothing."

Recent figures revealed domestic abuse happens at least three times a day in East Ayrshire, which is higher than the Scottish average.

Now Leanne and her partner are desperate to stay open and make sure no one is trapped in a domestic abuse relationship out of the fear of starting from scratch.

They want to keep delivering furniture and changing lives, but need support from the community.

Leanne said: “We have the chance of unit 8 at Thistle Business Park in Cumnock but would have to pay £2.5k upfront to cover insurance and electricity.

“If we were to receive the premises we would be taking over a container up at Skares recycling centre to divert reusable furniture from landfill to help reduce poverty further.

“We get referrals in from social workers which helps struggling young mums, refugees, or people who just need help to get on their feet.

“Some people have children who are being forced to sleep on carpets because they don’t have money for furniture, that’s when our business makes a real difference.

“It’s a great deal but because we charge very little for items, don’t make a profit, and even give things away for free at times, we just don’t have the funds.

Cumnock Chronicle:

“One of my biggest fears of leaving the relationship was having to leave everything behind especially with a new baby.

“Women’s Aid are great and will support you they are really an amazing service but resources are limited.

“You can be left terrified about where your children will sleep. Free for Fuel helps sort that out for you.

“If a service like that had been around when I was suffer ing from domestic abuse I would have left much sooner.

“We have come too far to give up now.”

East Ayrshire Council said: “East Ayrshire Council works in partnership with two local furniture redistribution schemes, Cumnock and Doon Valley Gift Furniture Scheme and Free For Fuel.

They take donations of unwanted furniture that are in good condition and work hard to ensure that all donations are distributed to thosein need.

“Both schemes provide a great service to our local communities."

If you wish to donate furniture or even volunteer a bit of your time contact Cumnock and Doon Valley Gift Furniture Scheme on 01292 550525 or Free For Fuel 07421306621.”

Karen Gardner, Manager of East Ayrshire Women’s Aid told us: “We would encourage any woman living with domestic abuse to get in touch with Women’s Aid. We know how hard it is but it is possible to take back control of your life and we’ll be there for you every step of the way.

Contact the Freephone 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline – run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. 0808 2000 247. Visit their website on https://www.womensaid. org.uk to find out more information about domestic abuse and get help today.