Toni's Story | The Salvation Army

Toni's Story

From darkness to lighta second chance at Christmas

For Toni*, Christmas is all about celebrating with family.

It’s the kind of Christmas that leaves hearts full and happy. Just like those hosted by her grandmother when Toni was growing up.

“Nana would be proud,” she says.

In a way, she’s come full circle. The decade of Christmases these good times circle around were a different story. Toni lost her way.

“In my childhood, Christmases were wonderful. But in my late teens and adulthood, until recent years, they were horrible.”

When her now grown-up children were young, Toni struggled financially. She was unable to give her children a good Christmas.

“The money situation was unreal." Just trying to get normal day-to-day groceries was hard enough, let alone Christmas presents. The budget was "first in first served and as a mother, I put myself last.”


Desperate measures

One Christmas Eve, Toni resorted to using the rent money to “make Christmas happen”. Another year, she bought presents from a truck that offered goods on hire purchase. It took 12 long years to repay the debt.

As life became harder, she sent her children to relatives so they could enjoy Christmas. But left alone with thoughts of inadequacy, she numbed her pain with drugs and alcohol. And as her ability to cope weakened, her children were taken into care.

Feeling like a failure, Toni’s drug addiction became ingrained. Her self-esteem plummeted. Years later, she fell into homelessness—an all-time low.


Toni’s now or never moment

Desperate to get clean for her children, Toni made a decision that would be lifechanging.

She summoned the courage to attend The Salvation Army’s Bridge programme. Committing to an extensive plan to tackle addiction isn’t easy. It took, and still takes, sustained effort.

After the programme, Toni was offered permanent social housing. It is owned by The Salvation Army and provides much-needed stability.

Filled with gratitude, she joined the church community as her way of saying thank you.


A bright new life

Today, Toni’s life is vibrant. She has two young children, both enrolled in an early childhood education centre run by The Salvation Army.

Her older children, now young adults, and seeing their mother living a stable, happy, and supported life, moved to be near her. It’s a reunion that fills her heart with joy.

For Toni, that sense of being enveloped by family she’d experienced as a child, has returned. It is enhanced by the connections she has found through The Salvation Army.

“It’s the unconditional love family I’ve always dreamed of having.”

As a solo mum again, money is still tight. Toni is grateful for the food parcel and help with gifts she receives at Christmas. Her local centre sets up a gifting room where parents can choose what their children would like.

“It makes it feel personal on Christmas Day,” she says. “I can even choose a gift for myself which just blows me away.”

Another way The Salvation Army has been able to support Toni is through counselling. This helped her to feel grounded in her new life and to accept her past.

“I still feel overwhelmed by what my life was and what my life is now,” she says.

Proud of how far she has come, she is forever grateful for the support she’s received.



*Name changed to protect privacy


How you can help people like Toni

You can bring light to someone’s life by donating now so that our doors are open for everyone else who needs support, connection, and empowerment across Aotearoa New Zealand this Christmas.

We’ve packaged up our Gifts of Hope this Christmas for you to give to Kiwis that need it—Kiwis just like Toni who needed a helping hand to enable her to change her life.


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