Deb has dedicated 20 years of her life to others.
She’s always put her own struggles last.
This Christmas, it’s Deb that needs some help.
For over 20 years, Deb worked as a crisis counsellor for people experiencing homelessness. It’s a demanding role that few of us could dedicate ourselves to for so long.
She has been so determined to help others that she’s turned a blind eye towards her own challenges in life.
Recently, her marriage broke down and she’s been given a life-limiting health diagnosis. Her single income just isn’t enough to pay the bills and put food on the table for her two children.
The irony is that if Deb can’t improve her own situation she will be at risk of being homeless, like the very people she’s dedicated her life to helping. To make matters worse, Deb lives in a drought-affected area of Gippsland.
To say that Deb has had a rough time lately would be an understatement. Deb tells us that the bills and mortgage always come first. But then there’s not much left for food, or anything else.
On top of trying to support her kids as a single mum, Deb also suffers from severe osteoarthritis and has a thyroid condition.
There are days when Deb can hardly walk, let alone work. Deb knows the best way to manage her condition and relieve the extreme pain is by exercising and taking medication – which is expensive. There’s just no way Deb can afford to invest in ‘luxuries’ like her own health.
“Swimming can help manage the condition but it’s something I can’t afford. And I absolutely have to sacrifice on my medicines,” she told me.
Each day she struggles through the pain, knowing she must keep going to have any chance of putting a meal on the table for her two children. Deb’s son Isaac has high needs. She is his full-time carer, which makes finding a job that allows for the flexibility to look after Isaac extremely difficult.
“Finding a job which is going to accommodate my needs, for my health and my child, is very difficult if not impossible,” Deb explained.
For Deb, the idea of not having enough food on Christmas Day adds to the day-to-day pressure of trying to making ends meet. While she has cut back on a lot of things, food can’t be one of them.
Deb is so diligent with the few resources she has. She stretches every dollar to the limit and she shops strategically to put meals together for the family.
“Foodbank makes a massive difference. It just fills the gap that I might not have. Or I can use some of that food and go ‘OK, I can afford to buy a packet of sausages this week’.
“I always check what’s in my pantry before I buy anything because sometimes I can add just one thing to what I already have, and it will pass for a meal.
“The mortgage comes first because we need a roof over our head, then I pay all the bills and then I buy food. I couldn’t tell you what percentage of the weekly budget goes to food because it’s often never much. I’d be in dire trouble without Foodbank” says Deb.
Deb didn’t ask for help straight away, not because she was ashamed but because she felt there were others that were worse off, when in reality she was taking the notion of ‘going without’ to a whole new level.
“I go without things on a regular basis for the kids, if I need new shoes I’ll make them last a bit longer. If one has a little hole that’s alright, I can deal with that.
“The cost of utilities has gone up. My usage has dropped because we’ve been very diligent about it, but the bills are still getting dearer. We turn everything off and never leave a light on. It’s got to a point where I’ve even considered switching off the mains.”
The irony that someone that’s helped so many people is doing it so tough is heartbreaking. For someone that’s done so much for her community, Deb shouldn’t be in a position where there’s no food on the table at Christmas.
Deb is due a little luck her way. She’s due a comforting, heartening Christmas meal with her family. Together, we can help her just like we help thousands of families each week.
It’s heartbreaking to see food become a luxury item and I feel I need your help more than ever before to make sure everyone has enough food this Christmas.
Please be as generous as you can and we’ll convert your generosity to hampers that will make Christmas day a happy one for those going through very tough times.