A couple of brutal beatings at the hands of gang members was the final straw for Keri.
Her decision to leave town and her partner to escape gang life and its methamphetamine-fuelled culture, and to provide a future for her young children, eventually led her to the doors of The Salvation Army.
After leaving her provincial home town, Keri moved into a house in Auckland with her mother and her mother’s partner. The living arrangements didn’t work out and Keri found herself alone with her children, spending most of her income on rent.
She had also racked-up a large amount of debt, much of it a result of being guarantor for loans that were defaulted on. ‘I was able to pay my rent and power and then there was nothing left,’ Keri says.
With no support and little adult company, she suffered from loneliness and depression.
‘Life wasn’t easy and there is a stigma of being a single mother,’ she says. ‘But I was going to make sure my children were going to have good lives.’
She first made contact with The Salvation Army last year, dropping into the local centre when she was out walking and wondering how to solve her problems.
The Salvation Army officer provided a listening ear and some reassurance and then organised regular food parcels to ensure the family had adequate food in the short to mid-term.
Thanks to some intensive budget counselling and The Salvation Army advocating on her behalf in negotiations with creditors, in less than a year she has her debt at a manageable level and her financial situation improving by the month.
Since her early contacts with The Salvation Army, she has been welcomed into the Army community. She is part of the local church, is a regular volunteer with the Community Ministries welfare team and her 8-year-old son is a member of the Kids’ Club.
Keri says her recent success and having supportive people around her has helped raise her self-esteem and added some security to her and her children’s lives.
This year she will start extra-mural polytechnic studies as the first step in gaining a social work degree.
Jenny, a Salvation Army officer who has had regular contact with Keri since she first sought help, says her transformation has been astounding but not entirely surprising.
‘Even before she came to us, she was a brilliant and resourceful mother and fiercely determined to create a better life for them,’ Jenny says. ‘All she needed was a little support.’