For Ayesha, poverty, social isolation, depression and regularly going hungry was an inseparable part of parenting alone.
But with some encouragement and strategic support from The Salvation Army, as well as her own strength of character, the girl who left school with no NCEA credits is now about to start her final year of a Bachelor of Nursing.
Ayesha’s first contact with The Salvation Army was going into a Family Store to buy a pair of shorts her daughter needed for school. As she stood at the counter struggling to find the required $2.50 in her purse, the observant manager tactfully suggested she visit the local Army centre.
The single mother of two young children was spending between 60 and 70 per cent of her income on rent. With the combination of little family support, being socially cut-off and the unrelenting pressures of bringing up her children without enough money for life’s basics, Ayesha’s self-esteem was at rock bottom and she suffered bouts of depression.
While her children were a source of joy, much of her life concentrated on juggling power, rent and food costs. Beyond that, there was no disposable income.
‘There were plenty of times I got the girls to eat dinner and I wouldn’t eat because we didn’t have the money to survive the week otherwise,’ she says. ‘There was nothing heroic about it—every mother puts their children first.’
A Salvation Army social worker met with Ayesha, assessed her situation and immediately provided clothing vouchers for the children and arranged food parcels, which would relieve pressure on her weekly budget. Budget counselling helped lay out a workable financial plan for the family.
She enrolled in a Salvation Army Life Skills Programme designed to teach practical and economical household management as well as working on self-esteem, goal setting and self-awareness. During the course, she met women in similar situations to her own and friendships blossomed.
As life began to improve for Ayesha, she began to look to the future. She enrolled in a Salvation Army Employment Plus computer studies programme, got her driving license and was offered an office administration job with a government agency.
Ayesha says her journey from benefit to full-time work to university study was helped as much by Salvation Army staff’s emotional support as the practical assistance.
‘If I hadn’t gone into that Family Store that day, I really don’t know where I’d be today,’ she says.