The light of Christmas kindness
Last Christmas, despite COVID-19 restrictions, Mia* could still feel the love as she picked up presents and food hampers at her local Salvos. She says that through family and domestic violence (FDV), serious illness and loss, and over many years, the local Salvation Army team (supported by donors and volunteers) has offered her, her parents and her children, an amazing level of support and kindness.
One of Mia’s first encounters with her small rural Salvation Army was at Christmas time, more than seven years ago. She was facing poverty and hardship and had just moved out of a situation of FDV.
“Some years ago, my ex spent everything; emptied our accounts,” Mia explains.
“I couldn’t pay off the toys I’d put on lay-by. I hadn’t registered with the Salvos for Christmas help, but I rang them and said, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ They said, ‘Come on down.’ They sent me out with a bag for each child full of toys, a bit of clothing, a board game and a book. I could wrap it up and put it under the tree for my children.
“They’ve also got a big container and you can have a look through what fresh food they’ve got and things like that. Sometimes they won’t be able to give you a supermarket voucher, but they’ll be able to fill up boxes full of food for you.”
When Mia faced the greatest challenge of her life – the diagnosis of her youngest daughter Lizzy* with a life-threatening tumour, the family again desperately needed material, emotional and pastoral support.
Treatment was far from home and ongoing.
Mia says: “We’ve been through hell, over many years. Lizzy nearly died a couple of times and she had blood transfusions to save her life. It was so tough on her.”
Local Salvos’ officer Penny* and volunteer John* stood beside the family throughout the process.
Penny and John worked alongside Mia’s parents – packing up Mia’s rental home, cleaning it, moving trailer-loads of furniture and even storing her furniture, not once, but twice, when Mia has had to move (for long-term hospital stays and other reasons).
Mia says: “Penny and John [who is in his 70s, and together with his wife, is also a grandparent carer] have been wonderful. They’ve helped with anything we’ve needed.”
Food and kindness
The team then supported Mia, after her mum passed away, and through more treatment for Lizzy.
“[One stay was] three months of treatment in hospital. Once we came home, John would ring, saying, ‘How are you guys going? Do you need anything? Do you need food?’ They made it known again they were there to help [my kids and I] in any way,” Mia says.
“Over many years, there have been times I’ve been struggling, and I'd go down and see them and they help me with a food or fuel voucher. Recently John helped me hugely with my electricity bill because I was getting behind. And because I don’t speak well, he got on the phone and changed my plan and got them to put me on a payment plan,” Mia says.
“Lizzy’s got to have regulated heating because when her immune system kicked back in, she developed really bad eczema all over her top half of her torso, all up her back and down the backs of her legs, and so we have to keep the house heated and cooled at a regular temperature.
“Penny also opened her office door to me. She knew we couldn’t take Lizzy out much because of germs when she was on chemo – she would get sick at the drop of a hat. So, Penny would say prayers with me; spend time.”
Mia has also had much needed support at Christmas-time. Last year, she was again given bag-loads of gifts for her children, food and vouchers.
“My dad [was] sick and I felt spread so thin,” Mia says. “I try to get the kids one decent gift, and maybe one or two small ones. But I was struggling to do that. The help from these guys [local Salvos and donors] really was awesome.
“Without [Penny, John and others] I would have struggled, really struggled! Penny is a beautiful lady! John makes me laugh no matter how down I am and they have helped me, my parents and kids more than I can ever put into words.
“They’ve impacted my life massively and I have such an appreciation for them!”
*This is a true story with names changed to protect privacy.
Words Naomi Singlehurst.