“We went into hardship on our mortgage and my sick pay ran out, my annual leave ran out, everything ran out, and we were living off nothing.”
Perri and her husband were living the Australian dream: they had a mortgage on a home and Perri was facing a promotion that would secure the couple’s future. But an injury turned her whole world upside down.
“Life changes very, very quickly,” Perri says. “I had a very comfortable job and I was due to have a promotion. Unfortunately, I had a fall at home and I fractured my right leg very, very badly. It took 18 months for me to recover.”
Perri is a nurse, and her injury prevented her from working. During this time, Perri used all her leave from work before falling back on her savings. Her husband was working casually, but his work was unreliable.
“It got to the point where we just could not live anymore,” Perri says. “I had to try and find help. One of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to ask for help.”
Perri found herself at ADRA in Ferntree Gully, Victoria. The program operates out of the local Seventh-day Adventist church building and is entirely run by volunteers who are a mix of church and community members.
“I got bags and bags and bags of groceries that I wouldn’t have been able to buy,” Perri says. “I came in here in tears and left with food and a smile on my face and a full belly that night. And that made all the difference.”
When Perri recovered, she applied for a new job. But before her new job could get off the ground, her husband suffered a stroke, and Perri became his full-time carer.
Perri now receives a carer’s allowance and her husband receives the age pension. But when compared to the cost-of-living, they were still considered to be food insecure. ADRA’s food support is helping to relieve that pressure.
“That extra money that we’re not spending on food I can spend on the electricity and gas,” she says.
Over time, Perri was so touched by the support she decided to join the team of ADRA volunteers to give back in any way she could. “I love being a volunteer and it warms my heart. I go home on a Monday absolutely exhausted, but my heart is full.”
As a client and a volunteer, Perri is in a unique position. Her experience allows her to connect in a personal way with the clients who walk through the door every Monday.
“I’ve been there, that’s the bottom line,” Perri says. “I’ve felt the failure of [thinking] like, what do I do tomorrow? Am I going to lose everything? And that’s how a lot of them come here.
“People are really embarrassed asking for help because, you know, yesterday they were fine, but today they’re not. And to ask for help is embarrassing.”
Over the past couple of years, the number of people seeking ADRA’s support has increased vastly. The impact of COVID-19 compounded by the cost-of-living crisis has new people coming through ADRA’s doors every week.
“Our clientele has doubled, if not tripled, with the cost of living going up now,” says Perri.
For so many like Perri who are staring at empty shelves, ADRA provides essential food support. But equally important to the clients is the love and support they feel every time they step through the church doors.
“ADRA is food support. But more than food support, it’s emotional support for me,” Perri says. “It’s seeing friendly faces every Monday, whether they be clients or the other volunteers here. It makes me whole again after a long week as a carer and it just makes me happy and fulfilled when we close the doors and we know people have got full tummies.
“I just want to thank you for your support for people like me and for the people that walk through our doors. It means so, so much.”
ADRA Australia has over 100 Australian community projects, run in collaboration with local Seventh-day Adventist churches. With the increased cost of living, it doesn’t take much to push people over the edge into financial hardship, food insecurity or even homelessness. Your gift by October 31 can provide Aussies, just like Perri, with the support they need to get back on their feet. Donate today at adra.org.au/appeal
Ashley Stanton is the media and communications senior officer at ADRA Australia.