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Salvos cafe gives Patricia a new shot at life

Salvos cafe gives Patricia a new shot at life

Salvos cafe gives Patricia a new shot at life

16 October 2017

Patricia's life changed through her involvement with The Salvation Army at Auburn, western Sydney.

By Lauren Martin

Patricia Young’s smiling face is a familiar sight at The Salvation Army’s headquarters in Redfern, Sydney. She works at the Freedom Café, located on Level 2 of the building. Yet just two years ago, life was completely different for Patricia.

“There’s some weeks that you’d think you had all your money where it should be and you come up short and you had to have noodles for dinner,” the single mother says. “You’re pretty much surviving, you’re not really living.”

Talk to any mother about “mother guilt” and they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. The niggling worries about whether you’re doing enough, whether your parenting decisions are the right ones, whether your kids are going to be OK in the long-run. “Mother guilt” is real enough under normal circumstances, but add extreme poverty to the mix and the result can be debilitating.

“There are weeks where you’ve literally got five or six dollars in your wallet for the last couple of days until pay day. And it’s like, ‘Well, if something happens, or if something comes up, or if they’ve got a school excursion or things like that, it’s like, ‘Where am I going to get that from?’ That again brings back the whole thing – you feel like you’re failing because you can’t do those things for your child.”

Like a swimmer treading water with just her head above the waves, Patricia says for many years she felt like she was trying so hard but just not getting anywhere. “You start to feel like every day is the same and you feel like you’re going around in circles. Because again, it’s a money factor. If you want to go and better your education, or you want to get a job in a different industry – everything costs money.”

Although Patricia is a hard worker, there were times when even her thriftiness couldn’t make her Centrelink payment stretch far enough. But the Salvos have always been there when times were tough, coming through with food hampers or help with unexpected bills. After working for a long time in the child-care industry, Patricia re-trained and started working as a hairdresser, her dream job. Unfortunately, Patricia, who has an auto-immune disease, couldn’t handle the labour-intensive hours in the job and became very sick.

Five years of unemployment followed, which was a very dark time for her as her health and self-esteem plummeted.

Then an opportunity came up for Patricia to take a work-for-the-dole placement at Auburn Salvation Army. She was placed in the kitchen of the community café, which operates a low-cost meal service four days a week for people in need.

“Because I hadn’t been working for such a long time it was also very good for my mental state. I was getting out there and helping people,” she says. And some days, when Patricia was down to the last few dollars in her wallet, she would be able to take home a leftover meal from the café for her and her son. “I think as an organisation The Salvation Army is brilliant basically. They couldn’t have done more to help me.”

During her work-for-the-dole placement, Patricia was offered a spot in a free barista course being run by the Salvos. She jumped at the chance. Soon after, a place became available in The Salvation Army’s free driving school for her to obtain her provisional licence.

“Because of how my life has been,” she says, “when opportunities come up I will jump on them and I will put everything into them to make sure it’s not a missed opportunity.”

With that kind of attitude, it wasn’t long before Patricia was back in the workforce. She’s now working at the Freedom Catering Group café at The Salvation Army Australia Eastern territorial headquarters in Sydney and is able to manage her auto-immune disease by working four days in order to have an extra day of rest during the week. She says the Salvos have changed her life, and she’s now saving for a car.

“That will just give us so much more freedom to go to the beach or go up the mountains. Just that little bit of extra freedom would be nice.”

Tomorrow is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. 

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