“I don’t want my children to worry about how I’m going to pay bills, or how I am going to feed them.”
A mum of four children aged 20, 17, 13 and 10, Louise lost her husband two years ago. He’d been unable to work since having a heart attack in 2009, and further health complications took their toll, right up until his death in 2016.
It was a tough time. Not only did Louise lose her husband, but the financial struggle was impacting her kids.
Her eldest, Nathan, remembers: ‘Although Mum tries to hide the money side of things, I knew. As a typical older sibling, I would have to go without, so my siblings could take food to school. I’d always be trying to explain to them why they couldn’t have a treat – we needed the money.’
While Nathan cut back where he could, his mum was skipping meals. Louise told us: ‘I would go without to feed the kids.’
Dealing with the loss of her husband, and her kids with the loss of their dad, the last thing Louise wanted was for her children to be aware of how hard she was struggling:
‘To me, that’s not part of being a kid. You don’t need to have that worry. You need to feel safe, secure and loved. I don’t want them to worry about how I’m going to pay bills, or how I am going to feed them.’
Since her husband, Rob, first had a heart attack in 2009, things have progressively got worse: ‘I was a nurse, but I had to quit my job to become his fulltime carer.’
After his heart attack, Rob could not return to his job as a roof tiler. He was eventually diagnosed with Congenital Central Hypoventilation Syndrome, which effectively stops the brain from telling the lungs to breathe. Tragically Rob didn’t survive. Just before Rob’s death, they found out it was genetic. Today, her eldest son Nathan and her youngest daughter have the condition too.
‘It’s been very, very tough. They both need a ventilator to sleep.’
‘Rob and I chose to have four children so I feel it’s my responsibility; to be able to feed my kids is something I should be able to do.’
Louise tried to work with what she had. ‘Bread is the cheapest thing,’ Louise explains, ‘there would be many nights they’d get bread and butter because that’s what we have. Sometimes, if we have milk or flour, it would be pancakes—that’s not a meal, but at least it would fill their tummies.’
A family friend encouraged Louise to seek help from one of our charity partners. She’s very thankful for the help, but still has mixed feelings about taking it: ‘I filled out the form and then I was taken to the pantry where they gave me a bag, and the woman said, “Please take as much as you need”. We were extremely stunned really. It’s been really embarrassing for me, that I can’t feed my family.’
‘I know we can take more, but there’s so many people out there who need help. We only take what we absolutely need.’
To see her kids be able to take full lunch boxes to school is what brings her back. ‘It’s just a feeling of gratefulness. That there is somewhere I can go.’
Louise is now trying to rebuild her life. She has finished the teaching degree that she started just before her husband’s heart attack. She’s hopeful that soon she will be able to find work, and her family will be able to get back on their feet.
Nathan is working hard, too. He’s studying law, in the hope that one day he can have a career that will be able to take care of his family.
Families like Louise’s, feel the hurt at watching their children go without. They feel the shame of not being able to make ends meet. They feel the stress of never knowing if their cupboard will stretch throughout the day, let alone the week.
Their kids feel it, too. They feel different. They can’t understand.
Most of all, they feel hungry.
We hope you feel for the struggle these families face; and today, would urge you to help bring them relief.
Please donate before June 30 and help more families, like Louise’s, gain access to food. Your gift today will provide urgent food to families living in Victoria who are doing it tough.