Fifteen years ago, Murray was a personal fitness trainer, taking out the masters categories in the Mr Fitness Olympia title in Greece and the Mr Fitness Universe in the United States.
But when his daughter’s mental health began deteriorating, Murray gave up competition and took on the care of his grandchildren. He is now the sole caregiver to five grandchildren and more recently a great-grandson.
‘Yeah, I left the world stage,’ he laughs. ‘But when I look back, I wouldn’t change a thing.’
Proudly independent, Murray has raised his grandchildren, now in their teens, with little support. He works 20 hours a week around the children’s school hours and prides himself on keeping a tight household budget.
Murray knows the importance of maintaining a stable family environment. He was a ward of the state from age three to 15, living in a series of foster homes and boys’ homes.
‘There’s times when we have to go without and I feel sorry that I’m not able to provide certain things, but they keep on reminding me that they’ve been grateful for the fact I’ve hung in there for them,’ he says. ‘At the end of the day, all they want is love.’
But in the lead-up to the new school year, he knew that for the first time in 19 years his budget would not cope with the back-to-school costs after the added expenses of Christmas and having teenagers at home during the school holidays.
‘I decided to push all pride aside and seek some other assistance,’ Murrays says.
The Salvation Army provided a few food parcels to take some of the strain off the household budget and helped with some back-to-school costs, including supplying donated Warehouse Stationery vouchers. Around 5000 families receive similar practical assistance from the Army each year.
Some clients need only minor support and encouragement to get them through an isolated crisis. But many have endured chaotic, even traumatic lives since childhood and require more intensive work to help them become independent and better prepared to deal with the day-to-day tensions of living on a low income.
With demand for services still yet to subside since the peak of the recession, Salvation Army Secretary for Social Services Major Pam Waugh says public and corporate support for social services has become even more important if people like Murray and his family are to avoid debt and long-term poverty.
‘Our traditional sources of funding have been in decline for some time, making the Red Shield Appeal increasingly important if we are to maintain the depth and breadth of services,’ she says.
Murray and his family now have a brighter and happier future. To give hope to other Kiwis living in desperate situations please donate to the Red Shield Appeal today.