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From one Samaritan to the next

HerCanberra Team

If you’re a mother of two with one on the way, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of parenthood. Juggling two children’s needs while being pregnant, maintaining a household and working can be overwhelming to say the least.

Michelle was that mother of two and pregnant with her third, when in 2007 she fled a violent relationship and moved to Canberra in the hopes of a better life for not only her children, but herself.

“When I first came to Canberra, I lived in a women’s refuge in Ainslie,” explains Michelle.

The confronting reality is that 29 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in the ACT are single women with children who have suffered domestic violence and relationship issues.*

Addicted to drugs and alcohol, Michelle had an awakening moment when her youngest child was born with a heart defect. Michelle spent three months at Sydney Children’s hospital where her baby fought for life, ultimately having the defect corrected and being able to return home.

Vinnies volunteers provided initial support to Michelle, such as petrol vouchers to allow her to attend counselling appointments for herself and her children, two of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the abusive actions of Michelle’s former partner whom she fled from.

Two Vinnies volunteers still visit Michelle not only to see if they can provide a hand up, but to support her through conversations and kindness, because everyone needs an understanding friend.

Michelle reflects, “I couldn’t ask for two better supporters, they’re always so lovely and so accommodating.”

Domestic violence is an all too common occurrence and often leads to homelessness, substance abuse and mental health issues. Thanks to the tireless advocacy work of the St Vincent de Paul Society and individuals such as the 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, awareness is growing.

Supported by Vinnies, Michelle beat her addictions and was motivated to undertake a Certificate in Drug and Alcohol Counselling. Vinnies offered Michelle a placement at Samaritan House to gain work experience as part of her course.

Samaritan House provides support and accommodation to single men in the Canberra region; it is the only provider of crisis accommodation for single men in the ACT and experiences a huge demand for its twelve bedrooms.

Through working at Samaritan House, Michelle gained invaluable insight and the tools she needs for her certificate.

Vinnies also provided respite to Michelle’s eldest child through the St Joe’s Youth Program which organises holiday camps and weekend activities for disadvantaged children. The program focuses on building self-esteem, social confidence and improving team work and leadership skills.

“My daughter loved St Joe’s so much that my other daughter is now registering to attend the camps,” says Michelle.

Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn is able to provide support for families like Michelle’s thanks to its extensive and tireless volunteer network of over 2,000 people, but also through appeals such as the annual Doorknock Appeal, which is currently running through February.

Several of Vinnies programs rely on public donations, such as the St Nick’s Youth Program which provides respite and recreation to young carers aged 9-17. Throughout the year St Nick’s provides these children and teenagers with recreational activities that they may not otherwise access due to their caring role, social isolation or financial restraints on their family.

Without the amazing generosity of the Canberra community, the St Vincent de Paul Society would not be able to provide a hand up to those in need.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Vinnies Doorknock Appeal to help raise vital funds for our programs, you can register online. Online donations can be made via the Vinnies donation page.

 *ABS, Census of Population and Housing: Estimating Homelessness, 2012.
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