Less than two months before last Christmas Lara’s* long-term relationship inexplicably turned violent—so violent that she was left with ongoing serious injuries. A long way from family and isolated from friends, she arrived at a Salvation Army crisis service with just two sets of clothes. One set was bloodstained and torn.
Up to that point she had never asked for help and had donated regularly to the Salvos.
At first she says she had no hope, only fear. “I sat in my room and cried
But after case management and intensive support, Lara now lives in transitional housing and has decided her future lies in helping others. She has enrolled in a counselling diploma to complement the double degree she holds.
“The support gives you the means to get that hand up; re-establish yourself, regain your dignity and move forward,” she says.
Lara shares that one of her most precious experiences in the crisis service was celebrating Christmas.
“They put on a beautiful lunch, everything was decorated and Salvo volunteers came in to serve us—it was just so lovely,” she says.
“It felt like that Christmas you have with your family with party hats and bonbons and gingerbread houses and leg ham and chocolates…then it all went quiet on Christmas afternoon because we all had full bellies and were full of happiness.”
What could have been a deeply sad occasionturned outto be full of joy and meaning.
Lara says that what could have been a deeply sad occasion turned out to be full of joy and meaning.
“All the women here made an effort,” she says. “They did their hair, they did their make-up and dressed up,” she says.
“To see the kids coming up to the hampers full of presents was priceless. The joy on their faces was unbelievable. It helped me, and I think many of us, realise there’s millions out there on the streets or starving in the world and even though we’d all been through tough stuff, we felt so blessed to have this beautiful place to call home, even for a little while.”
For the Salvos, Christmas around Australia means toy and hamper distribution for struggling and isolated families and Christmas community lunches served in areas ranging from metropolitan centres to tiny outback towns. It means Christmas celebrations in Salvation Army crisis centres, recovery services, homelessness and youth services, Salvation Army Aged Care Plus centres and in corps (churches).
Salvos Christmas is also taken out to drought-affected isolated bush areas, prisons, defence service personnel and their families and others through a network of churches, centres and chaplains.
Over the Christmas period, The Salvation Army in Australia—generously supported by multitudes of everyday Australians, major corporations, small businesses, motorcycle toy runs, gift buyers, celebrities and teams of volunteers—provides more than 160,000 meals, more than 64,000 hampers and vouchers, and distributes more than 58,000 toys.
*This is a true story. Name changed for privacy.