The Salvation Army is one of the worlds largest social welfare organisations, helping more than one million Australians every year – that’s one person every 30 seconds! With over a thousand specifically designed social programs across Australia, the Salvation Army provide meals for the hungry, beds for the homeless and refuge for the marginalised, scared and abused.
Ahead of the Salvation Army’s annual fundraising drive, the Red Shield Appeal, a team of lucky Thrivers were taken on a whistle-stop tour to four of the Salvation Army Centres in Sydney. And what an eye-opening, incredible experience this was. The diversity of work the Salvos carry out in each centre and the passion, energy and kindness of all the volunteers and people we met over the course of the day was just inspiring.
‘We feel like a family here’
Our first stop was to the ‘Waterloo Mission Centre’ where we were warmly welcomed by a group of volunteers and visitors, who were preparing an Easter coffee morning. This particular mission centre is primarily focused on providing people with budget meals, and offers them a place to spend the day chatting to others and joining regular programs such as the Friday bric-a-brac market. One particular volunteer has been going to the centre for seventeen years and stated; “This place gets everyone involved and lifts peoples self-esteem, it’s wonderful.” We certainly felt this vibe.
‘Alcohol is a thief, it steals your life away’
Our next stop was to a ‘Medicated Detox and Residential Rehabilitation Centre’ for men and women with alcohol, drug and gambling dependencies. Our tour guide was an inspiring man who was eight weeks into his program, relapsing after being alcohol and drug free for over twenty years.
One memorable story was about a man who omitted himself and left the centre sixteen times before completing the program. He is now a nurse practitioner himself and is twenty-five years clean. What a truly amazing story.
‘Young people just need a place to feel safe’
Our next stop was to a youth centre that supports homeless and disadvantaged youth between the ages of 16 and 24. This bright and welcoming centre holds a range of programs from simple breakfast and shower time, to schooling, crisis accommodation, gym programs and work preparation courses. It was at this centre that we became most aware of how sensitive these issues really are to those involved, particularly towards the media. It was touching how protective and passionate the centre leader was, regarding the kids that visit this centre, and rightly so.
‘Aiming to bring hope, healing and restoration’
The last stop on our enlightening morning was to a ‘Street Level Mission Centre’ that provides a variety of programs and services for some of the poorest, most disadvantaged and marginalised people. This centre has a large Op-Shop, a small church, a food market, lockers and a kitchen selling $2 hot meals.
The Salvation Army has released findings from its annual Economic and Social Impact Survey (ESIS), which revealed that life just gets harder for marginalized Australians, with issues set to increase further in light of the recent federal budget. This nationwide survey of around 2,500 Salvation Army welfare clients revealed key areas of concern, such as:
29% said they already did not have a secure or decent home; 14% were homeless or lived in unstable accommodation; 24% said they already couldn’t afford medical treatment when needed; 34% were unable to buy medicines prescribed by the doctor. While for many Australians a fee of $7 for the doctor might not sound like much, for someone who lives on less than $35 per day, it can be a choice between food and health care. For more information, please see:
These findings as well as our motivating day trip to the Salvos certainty made our work with the Salvation Army mean so much more. It has also inspired the Thrivers to do more for charity, as every penny raised may mean a roof over someone’s head, or education support for a child at risk of dropping out of school and much, much more.