Dear Members of the Kildare Ministries Community
Our community works have faced numerous challenges this year as they adapted and accommodated the changing needs of the people they serve and care for and support. If the changing landscape and crisis was difficult to manage for many of us, it would have been doubly challenging for people who make up the casual workforce, who do not have the same rights as citizens, for our refugees and asylum seekers, for women whose English skills are limited and for families who found themselves without an income and others without a home. There were thousands of people that did not benefit from the Government’s schemes and who needed the generosity, charity and support of our community works. Below are poignant extracts from reports written by BASP, Wellsprings for Women and Presentation Family Centre, each describing the effects of COVID 19 on their work.
Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project - Making the needs of the Vulnerable Paramount.
Welcoming the Stranger continues to be the basis of the work of BASP. For 20 years it has worked to support people seeking asylum in Australia- at the individual and family level as well as advocating for a fairer and just system to those seeking our protection.
In 2019, there were increasing numbers seeking help with housing, bills and food as government income support was withdrawn or not offered. Some of those BASP assists were unable to work due to health issues, lack of skills or not being permitted to work. Then with Covid 19, many more were seeking help. This included people who had worked for years but with lockdown and restrictions, their work had ceased and they were not entitled to any government support.
This last financial year has seen an increase in the vulnerability of this group of people. BASP is now paying around $85k per month on rentals and a further $30k per month on Emergency relief- of cash and payment of utility bills. This is almost double that of a year ago.
This is possible due to the generosity of supporters, large and small. Religious Congregations (Brigidine Sisters and others), parishes, schools, and the general community continue to provide funds, food, housing and volunteer support. It enables us to help over 250 individuals and families with rental, a further 100+ with bills and food and still many more with support and companionship of volunteers who have maintained contact through phone and messaging during the pandemic.
"Would like to thanks you guys for the support you provide my family in this critical period even I can't explain in words how you support my young kids to stay under safe roof, only good wishes & prays we can offer from whole family as well once again stage 4 period increase for month of September that's terrible & it's put me in stress again because can't start my work please pray for every one facing this situation."
Facing destitution and seeking help has been a humiliating experience for some. BASP seeks to maintain the dignity of those in need and to provide inclusive, positive experiences within the wider community- through functions (when allowed) and through its extensive volunteer visiting program.
Presentation Family Centre
The COVID19 pandemic and associated restrictions imposed on Melbourne have left many people struggling. We feel for those families whose holiday bookings were cancelled and look forward to welcoming them in 2021. We know that more than ever, a holiday in a beautiful, natural environment can be restorative for individuals, families, and carers.
The sudden onset of stage four restrictions in Melbourne meant that Presentation Family Centre was required to cancel short term holiday bookings. Our challenge was to maintain our commitment to providing for vulnerable people within the COVID19 restrictions. We worked with a local homelessness support agency, to provide mid-term accommodation to women and children impacted by family violence. After many months with us, these families have recently moved into private rental accommodation.
Other guests stayed who were dislocated due to the sudden restrictions in Victoria and we were grateful that these guests were able to share their skills with us during their stay, including improving our garden, undertaking house maintenance, building works, and providing information technology support.
Wellsprings for Women
As we neared the end of term 1, COVID struck. It was a pivotal moment requiring swift action in deciding what to do and how to adapt to maintain connections and engagement with our participants, knowing the difficulties and hardships many of them already struggle with without the added complications of a lockdown.
We reached out to our Kildare Ministries schools and sought donations of laptops to gift our participants realising the necessity of connecting remotely to deliver existing programs.
The majority of our participants did not have access to a computer or internet. With donated laptops and later through grants from philanthropy and local government, we managed to supply over 75 women with equipment, internet access and IT support.
The challenge continued as we needed to provide a lot more training for the women to confidently use technology and connect with tutors via Zoom. Staff, tutors and volunteers contacted participants on daily basis to check on their health and welfare, provide them with up to date information on restrictions, referring them to services and where to get tested if they have any symptoms. During April and May, we diverted our efforts in working with Dandenong Council on emergency relief and supplying over 60 families with weekly food parcels. Throughout term 2, we continued our efforts in delivering courses and supporting women using all means of communication such as: WhatsApp groups, phone calls, ZOOM, and few face to face interactions.
Our Women’s Support Team were receiving 2 to 3 referrals a week from other agencies of women impacted by mental health, isolation, and family violence. The support provided could not be solely done over the phone but required face to face interaction with the women who needed help in attending court cases associated with their intervention orders. Keeping our staff and volunteers safe while also assisting our most vulnerable clients continues to be a priority.
At the time of writing the Victorian Premier was not confident to ease restrictions for fear that we would face another uncontrollable situation. We are concerned for the most vulnerable and those who have suffered at the hands of COVID and we hope that once restrictions are eased, so too might the road to recovery, understanding that it will be a long road ahead for many, especially our community works. For those of us who were fortunate not to be too scathed by living life in lockdown may we be a source of light, hope and presence for our communities as this year of surprises and challenges comes to an end.