Several years ago, Cassia was living the good life, enjoying retirement with her second husband and family in a large home in Remuera.
But when her husband left her, she suddenly lost everything—not only all the material things she’d owned and access to money, but also the lifestyle and friends that had come with it.
Cassia says that it was a devastating, life-altering moment for her.
‘I had a wonderful life, the world was my oyster—and then all of a sudden it was taken away and I was left with nothing.
When I had my downfall my so-called friends just left me, I didn’t know what to do, they just didn’t want to know me anymore.’
When Cassia came to The Salvation Army’s centre in Albany Bays—at the age of 72—she was in an extremely impoverished situation, unable to afford the basics and struggling to get by on a daily basis.
She had experienced prolonged depression as a result of the financial, social and physical deprivation that came from the split, and with her friends abandoning her she was in a lonely, isolated place. Her health had also been impacted over the years from all she had experienced, resulting in several significant health problems. This included her suffering from several small strokes, which resulted in cognitive difficulties and memory recall issues.
At the same time she was trying her best to raise two teenage step-sons, whom who had bought up as her own, and was facing Christmas with nothing but stress, debt and unpaid bills to think about.
Cassia remembers how difficult she found it to approach The Salvation Army for the first choice, where she met one of their social workers, Sue.
‘My money was running out, and someone mentioned you needed to go to The Salvation Army.
At first it was really awkward, I had to relay my whole story and I just cried and cried and then I just had this overwhelming quiet, a peace with this woman named Sue who worked for the Army.’
Cassia shared her story with Sue and they talked about the type of help that Cassia needed urgently, as well as long-term help and support that could help dig her out of poverty and get her back on her feet.
With Christmas approaching, the Army gave her a Christmas hamper and gifts for the boys. Cassia recalls that she true prize in that hamper for her was a big frozen chicken, which she otherwise would not have been able to afford.
‘She was so good to me, I got given that chicken and I made it last me for three months—that’s how scrooge-y I was.’
After that Christmas, Cassia continued to come back and receive assistance from the Army, including the occasional food parcels when she couldn’t afford to feed her children, and financial mentoring to help her address her debt and build a plan to manage her finances.
She was also referred to Senior Services where she was connected with other people in similar situations to her that she could talk to and begin to build new friendships with. This service also provided her with advocacy with places like Housing NZ, WINZ and doctors, transport to and from medical procedures, and house/garden clean-ups from Army-managed volunteer groups.
Cassia has also become an active volunteer with The Salvation Army and she credits this with helping to rebuild her shattered confidence and to give her added purpose in life.
Today, Cassia is happy and in a good place.
‘I give back my time now volunteering, I enjoy it—meeting people, people that were in the same boat that I once was, helping them by listening to their stories and helping them transition.
And I’ve learned to laugh again, it’s wonderful.’
This Christmas, more than 17,000 families like Cassia's will turn to The Salvation Army for support. With your help, we can give them the support they desperately need.
You can give hope to those with nothing. Please donate today to help us help people like Cassia this holiday season, and together, we can give them a happier Christmas and hope for the future.