For one Christchurch Salvation Army client, who was adjusting to life on a benefit following the recent death of her partner, the run-up to Christmas was a time of dread and despair.
The manslaughter of her partner and father of her youngest daughter, on top of the death of her parents, had left Nicky in shock, grieving and deeply depressed. Her four children were naturally deeply affected by her partner’s death.
The family’s emotional turmoil was exacerbated by the household’s sudden reliance on a benefit, which meant a large income cut and a struggle to make ends meet. The family had to adjust to living with the stark choices of having their power cut off and eating, or keeping warm and having little or no food.
The Salvation Army targeted the most urgent problems first, providing food parcels to take some of the pressure off the family budget and helping to negotiate with Nicky’s power company.
Nicky says with Christmas looming – the first without her partner – the emotional and financial pressures were becoming too much and she was intending to cancel Christmas.
With key family members absent, The Salvation Army suggested remodelling Christmas Day by having photographs of missed loved ones displayed and celebrating their lives and their contributions to the family.
The Salvation Army provided presents for the children and a hamper of food for Christmas Day.
‘But the most important thing was they were there when I needed them – having people to talk to at that time,’ Nicky says.
Since those dark days, Nicky has grabbed every opportunity to change her life.
She enrolled in The Salvation Army’s Positive Lifestyles Programme, which guides participants through the process of dealing with and overcoming emotional obstacles in their lives.
Nicky and her family also enrolled in The Salvation Army’s Family Mentoring Programme, which matches screened and trained mentors with families. The mentor provides regular guidance and moral support to all family members, as well as friendship as families negotiate and move beyond difficult times.
An important part of the programme is goal-setting, which Nicky says was particularly beneficial for all family members. Nicky’s eldest son’s goal was to get a job, which he achieved.
Nicky also took part in parenting and life skills programmes.
She is now employed and independent of Salvation Army support and helps to train candidates for the Family Mentoring Programme.
Liz Adams, a Salvation Army staff member who has worked closely with Nicky, says her transformation, and that of her children, has been breath-taking.
‘Nicky progressed incredibly well and she has sustained that progress,’ Liz says.
‘Nicky did all the work – we just walked alongside her.’