Many parents across Australia are overwhelmed with worry right now about how to feed their children. The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many Australians who have never needed to access emergency food relief before need to do so now.
Imagine what Christmas is like when you have no food. Imagine having to explain to your children that there won’t be any special treats for them this year – no gifts, no Christmas dinner.
Sally* hadn’t expected her marriage to fall apart. The first three years were okay but without warning, her husband started to become violent… And it happened in front of her children. Sally had been lucky enough to grow up with two good parents who had never laid a hand on her, so she knew she had to leave right away. “For me that was the limit,” she says. “If you start to think that’s normal, your kids will think that’s normal too.” She knew she needed to find a better environment for them to grow up in. “I couldn’t let them become adults who thought that violence was okay.”
Sally took the brave step of leaving but with no resources, it was a stressful time. The waiting lists for women’s shelters were long and she was afraid she would not have enough money to cover the cost of a private rental. Her biggest fear was becoming homeless.
Sally stayed with friends for a while, but with two young children in tow, she felt embarrassed about asking to stay longer than a day or two. “I kept worrying about how I was going to keep a roof over our heads,” she says. “Would there be room for my kids? Could I ask my friend if I could stay another day? Could we wait another day before we had to move again?”
Because her husband’s name had been on their previous lease, Sally didn’t have a rental history. “Everything was in his name,” she explains. “It was like starting from zero.” All her finances had been connected to her husband’s account, so Sally didn’t even have a bank account. “I remember thinking I just have to keep a couple of hundred dollars aside so I can survive,” she describes.
Sally never expected to be in this situation. A young family, no food, no resources and nowhere to go.
Sally describes feeling increasingly desperate at that time. “I felt really down,” she says. “I felt hopeless. I didn’t have family to help and I knew I had to take action to help myself.”
Sally and her children were referred to The Kogarah Storehouse. “I was embarrassed,” she describes. “I was scared. But I needed help and I was willing to ask for it.” She hesitated when she got there, unsure if she was supposed to knock on the door or wait outside. “I knocked and a woman opened the door with a big smile,” she says. “I remember that smile.”
The team gave Sally groceries not just for that week, but for months afterwards. They gave her extra vouchers to purchase other essential items for her and the children. They helped her pay her electricity bill. Importantly, they gave her a place to go where she could talk to someone and feel welcome and supported.
When that first Christmas came around, Sally and her children were able to celebrate in a small way. “The Kogarah Storehouse even had some gifts for my kids,” Sally recalls. “I’ll always be grateful for that.”
Sally was committed to getting back on her feet. Like so many of the wonderful community organisations we support, The Kogarah Storehouse gave her the practical support and friendship to get her through the tough times.
Sally’s children witnessed her struggles. Today, they even see her as a role model. “They could see how much I was struggling, but they also saw how much I was trying,” she says. “It’s really been a journey for me,” Sally says. “There were some hard times.” While things are still difficult for Sally as a single parent, she is on the right path now.
*Sally shared her story with us, but names have been changed to protect her family.
Families across Australia are struggling to put food on the table
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, an estimated one in five Australians did not have access to enough food. Since then, the demand for food relief has soared.
Source: Foodbank Hunger Report 2020
Community organisations we support have told us they have been stretched to their limits this year in trying to get groceries to struggling and stressed families. As the cost of rent and other living expenses continues to rise, food becomes one of the few costs that people can cut. Without help, thousands of families will go hungry.
How is the Sisters of Charity Foundation helping?
The Sisters of Charity Foundation has been supporting community organisations that help families put food on the table for 20 years. This year, in addition to The Kogarah Storehouse, the Foundation is supporting CareWorks SunRanges, Moving Forward, St Michael’s Meals, Survivor’s R Us, the Vedanta Centre, Will2Live, and Your Angel Charity – all amazing organisations working on the front lines to feed desperate families.
No-one should have to choose between eating or paying the bills… Especially at Christmas. Your kind gift will help families put food on the table, have somewhere to go for support and allow them to have hope for a better future.