Every year the Salvos help hundreds of thousands of everyday Australians doing it tough. People experience this the most at Christmas time and two families tell us why the Wishing Tree Appeal means so much to them.
I’ve been through the Salvos Christmas appeal twice before this. Just the fact that I have this option if I’m struggling is unbelievable. I don’t have anything for my kids for Christmas, so having them have stuff on Christmas morning because of the Salvos is unreal, it’s unbelievable.
I’ve got three kids. One’s starting prep and one’s starting high school this year and I’m sure you know there’s a bundle of costs involved. Uniforms, books—I need money for camp, and there’s pressure to join the kids up to the music program in high school which is a couple of hundred as well. I’m just having the worst time trying to come up with the money for it.
It’s been just me for a long time. I had a very, very bad relationship. And it’s made me not want to be in one. I’d rather just be doing it on my own—then I know my kids are going to be looked after properly.
I’m not working yet. I’ve enrolled in a personal training course for next year which I’m super excited about. I’ve just lost 50 kilos over the last year, so I’m really enjoying getting fit and healthy.
I want to run a boot camp for mums who are in the situation I was in, where it costs a lot to lose weight if you want to do it through personal trainer. I want to give the opportunity to other single parents who can’t afford it and make it really cheap—using free things instead of worrying about the expensive equipment. I’ve done a lot of my weight loss without it.
The course is for a year and hopefully after that I can start earning a proper income and see where I can go from there.
I’m on a sole parent pension and I’m just really tight and strict with budgeting. The Salvos actually helped me with that, helping to sort out my bills. It feels really good to be starting to get back on top of it all.
That feeling when you’re behind is awful. You’re scared to answer the phone; you’re scared to spend a cent. You’re just worried about everything. But once you start to get back on top of it again it’s so good, such a relief.
Without this, Christmas would definitely not be as exciting for the kids. I will still go around op shops and see what other bits and pieces I can get for them. But I probably won’t be able to get too much.
They do understand that. They don’t ask for much, which is great because that would make me feel really terrible. I think because I was only 17 when I had my daughter, she learned pretty early that novelty things don’t come easy to us. She never made a big deal so now the boys don’t either. I’m grateful for that.
Last year they got some How to Train Your Dragon toys, which they are obsessed with. They asked for PlayDough which I didn’t manage to get. My daughter got some little books, a friendship bracelet- making kit and some walkie talkies. They were rapt.
I’ve got food parcels from here before, and that’s got me out of massive situations where I haven’t even had dinner to put on the table that night. If I’d had to fix the car up or something, I can call up and it’s always there which is great. It’s such a great service. They’ve got my back. I know that if I’m stuck, I can go to the Salvos and ask for help.
It’s been a few years since I began volunteering with the Salvos. We did come across a time where we needed some assistance and now it’s about giving back.
People might be doing well financially and then all of a sudden something happens. The rug gets pulled out from under you. And it can happen in an instant. That happened to us. And so we came here. That’s why we came last Christmas too, to volunteer.
It was a financial thing. We lost everything. And then we were staying with relatives. We were literally put out on the street. With the two boys. The four of us.
We said to the boys, “Let’s go on a holiday.” We didn’t know what to do.
To this day they still don’t know we didn’t have any money. We covered everything up. They were only six and four. They were just so young and innocent.
Thank God we came to The Salvation Army. They assisted us with food, they assisted us with blankets and, I tell you, it was the coldest winter we’ve ever gone through. I think it was because we didn’t have a roof over our head and we didn’t have blankets.
We just looked on the internet for appropriate housing. We stayed at a hotel for a little bit, using whatever payments were coming through. If it was just us two, we’d be in the car. We’re not people to sit and feel sorry for ourselves. We just bounced back up because we had to. You had to survive.
We were homeless for a month. I often thought, how are we going to eat? A few days I went without food. The boys ate. We’d always have them fed. To this day nobody knows this. The boys got us through it.
We found a property on the internet while we were staying at the hotel.
We came to the Salvos and they helped us with furniture. I’m talking blankets, couches, beds for the boys and us. Tables and chairs. They furnished the whole place. It was winter and I don’t think we realise how warm we are in homes. That’s why I’m always blessed and I thank God every day that we have a roof over our head.
If it wasn’t for the Salvos…I don’t know what would have happened.
I didn’t have help from family and these people were strangers to us. I’ll never forget what they did.
When we secured a place we were looking for work. My husband had limited English; he would go to school to try to learn it, to get into good employment.
And I needed to be there at the boys’ pick up, drop off. I’d see them during the day at lunchtime. The school didn’t know what had happened. We’re proud people. When we were overseas they had so much family—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. Here, all of a sudden they’re alone. So I thought I need to play the role of everyone now to support them more.
The Salvation Army said if you need food, come every week. That blew me away. When you’ve got a tin of spaghetti you make it last. Every week we were coming in and they were helping us, filling us up, a box at a time, fruit and vegetables and whatever they had. To some it doesn’t mean anything. But I tell you what, that one box or bag of bread and a box of fruit and vegetables and other necessities kept us going for a long while.
The first year we came they offered us presents. That was just a blessing in itself. When you don’t expect things and people give you things and they’re just amazing gifts as well. When you see the look on your children’s faces, you can’t describe it.
The boys now understand what the Salvos have done. Last year one of them came in and helped with the Christmas presents. They’ve donated other things to other places as well. We tell the boys they need to help.
Whether it’s 20 cents, whether it’s a dollar, whether it’s $20 [that you can donate], it all adds up. And I can guarantee that because I’ve seen what happens, and I’ve helped in the office with paperwork and with the toys—anything that comes in goes back out. There is nothing wasted. Nothing kept for the volunteers. Everything is here to help people.
If I see the Salvos and have $20 in my pocket, I’ll give it to them. I don’t even think twice, I just put it in.