'I was dealing with grief and stress. A lot had changed in my life, and learning to accept that, was very difficult for me as I had very little support at the time. I was well aware that we have control over our choices and decisions, and depending on the choices that you make and your environment, I knew that it all can affect your outcome; it can really impact on your life. Sometimes we say that we know, we acknowledge it, but we choose not to actually apply what we know.’
Natasha made the courageous decision to make some changes in her lifestyle and reached out to The Salvation Army for help. She wanted to be able to feel a sense of stability again, and wanted to find the person she was before the pain, before the loss, before the readjustments and before all the struggle and suffering.
As our Community Ministries manager, Liz, and Natasha talked, they started to get a picture of what was going on and were able to understand better the current situation. Together they began looking at practical ways that Natasha and her family could be supported. Natasha was pregnant with her son but also had her two daughters to think about.
‘I was trying to get out of my ‘sticky situation’ and I was staying with family at the time because of our predicament. We didn't have a car, which I was saving up for. I still had bills to pay so things were really tight. I was in financial stress.’
With a plan to get help with budgeting, a car seat so she was ready for her new baby, and a referral for counselling, she was able to feel the much-longed-for support. Liz encouraged Natasha to enrol in the Positive Lifestyles Programme Growing Stronger. The programme is designed to help identify areas that are holding people back and leads the participants to set goals, to make improved decisions and help with personal growth and self-awareness.
Natasha attended the programme and with time, she was able to see the barriers stopping her achieving the things she wanted to achieve. It gave her tools and coping mechanisms to set her up well to cope particularly during the lockdown last year.
One of the key things for Natasha was making connections with a supportive community. The invitation extended to Natasha to join in at the church led her and her family to other areas of support like creche, youth group, a Parenting group and meeting other families. These things helped them find a place, a new ‘found-family’, to call their own. Teresa who runs the Parenting Group says that Natasha has been a great encouragement to our other Parents. By sharing her parenting experiences Natasha has helped to build whanaungatanga and has taken opportunities to pray for other’s situations.
Last Christmas Liz rang Natasha and she said ‘Would you like some support at Christmas-time? You can come in and select a couple of gifts for your children.’ But it was not just the gifts for the children, there was also a groceries voucher, and a small gift for Natasha as well. Natasha and her children just wanted to be like everyone else and these few gifts made that possible and took a lot of pressure off.
Natasha says ‘… the reward of donating to The Salvation Army is knowing that you've contributed and you've played a part in being able to give a family some much needed help. To be able to take that load off them, and lighten their load, it is rewarding. Just knowing that you could do that for others. Knowing that other children, when they wake up first thing in the morning on Christmas and say "Yay" when they open their presents … the look in their eyes when they're happy with what they've received... you can't buy that.’
Natasha’s journey hasn’t been easy. But she has welcomed the reassurance that things are good, that she was doing the best she could and continues to do well. She has learned new tools and strategies to manage many of life’s challenges. Natasha feels so positive that she has achieved the change she was looking for. Natasha reflects ‘A lot has changed for all of us since then.’
Today Natasha feels clear-headed, she is able to feel grounded and remain calm. She now describes herself as future-focused. ‘Because when you're in the storm, or going through whatever, you don't really appreciate the storm if you don't have hope. You don't learn to actually look at things. Now I look at it as something I can learn from. I'm going to grow through this; it's remoulding me; it's rebuilding me; it's refining me for whatever's to come; the next obstacle, and I now know I am going to come through it.’
At The Salvation Army there is authenticity. For Natasha she says ‘I had faith, I just needed hope. Hope comes with trust, trust comes with hope, because when you don't have hope, you just don’t have faith in yourself.’