Tuesday, April 16, 2024
14.5 C
Sydney

We’re here to help

Most read

As authorised workers during the Greater Sydney lockdown, Maronites on Mission volunteers continue to provide care and services to some of the city’s most vulnerable people. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
As authorised workers during the Greater Sydney lockdown, Maronites on Mission volunteers continue to provide care and services to some of the city’s most vulnerable people. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

As families face one of the financially toughest Christmases ever, charities and others reach out to help

Charities are preparing to support a record number of families this Christmas as steep rises in the cost of living are set to collide with the most expensive time of year.

They say that Sydney families who are already struggling with rising power and grocery prices, falling wages, housing stress and the effect of three years of the COVID pandemic are worrying about how they’ll provide Christmas cheer for their kids when they’re already struggling to provide the basics.

Donna Boyd, Vinnie’s Support Centre Coordinator – Redfern, said that in her 14 years of working for the charity she has never seen so many people break down in her office, including a number of double-income families or homeowners who find themselves needing to ask for support for the first time.

- Advertisement -

“These last three years have seen us helping people who would not normally walk into a Vinnies office, and people started reaching out to us in September worrying about how they’re going to manage costs this Christmas,” she said.

“It’s very real. Four out of five of the people I see don’t have enough food to get by.”

“Last Friday at least a dozen people came looking for assistance with food and medication and every single one mentioned their electricity bills. Everyone’s been impacted by the rising cost of living, but the most vulnerable are bearing the brunt of the rising prices.

“It’s very real. Four out of five of the people I see don’t have enough food to get by. Parents are skipping meals so they can make sure they can put enough of a meal on the table for their children.”

The centre is planning to help as many families as it can this Christmas. As well as the traditional Christmas hampers and children’s gifts it prepares to distribute each year, Donna and her team have sourced donations from local groups and businesses to help boost its seasonal offerings, including providing gifts for older teenagers and parents.

“Mums and dads quite often go without in order to prioritise giving to their children. But Christmas is a time of giving and I know it sounds a bit clichéd but no one should go without, especially at Christmas,” she said.

Milan Maksimovic and his five-year-old son Christian with hampers containing food, toys and clothing to help refugee families over Christmas and New Years Seasons in 2018.
Milan Maksimovic and his five-year-old son Christian with hampers containing food, toys and clothing to help refugee families over Christmas and New Years Seasons in 2018.

“We want to really blitz this year and make sure everyone who reaches out to us leaves happy and content in the knowledge that assistance is available to them. At Christmas at least no one should have to struggle with these things.”

The recent Federal Budget brought more hard news for families, including a predicted 50 per cent increase in electricity bills (see page 2) and 40 per cent in gas prices predicted over the next two years.

Inflation is tipped to reach an eye-watering 7.75 per cent by the year’s end. The budget received mixed responses, with Jesuit Social Services calling “extremely disappointing” its lack of a commitment to increase the Jobseeker payment and other related income support measures.

Catholic Social Services Australia chair Francis Sullivan said the country needs to have a conversation about how it can finance essential services and ensure those on low incomes aren’t left “to face the brunt of inflation and cost of living pressures without assistance”.

“The federal Budget needs to work for every Australian, not just some, and sadly there is not enough here to address rising inequality which has been exacerbated during the pandemic and natural disasters.”

“Every week [Heaven on Earth] serves approximately 250 BBQ meals at Parramatta (on Friday evening and Saturday breakfast) and Liverpool (on Monday evening) for street sleepers and anyone who could use a free meal and good company.”

Heaven on Earth is a volunteer-run charity organised under the auspices of Our Lady of Lebanon Co-Cathedral, which is also seeing more couples and single parents with children needing support.

Every week it serves approximately 250 BBQ meals at Parramatta (on Friday evening and Saturday breakfast) and Liverpool (on Monday evening) for street sleepers and anyone who could use a free meal and good company.

Fr Robert Albayeh said volunteers are now seeing more families at Parramatta where it was mainly homeless individuals and couples. This Christmas Day the charity will host a party at Parramatta and is preparing for it to be the biggest one ever.

“In the last couple of months we’ve been seeing a lot of families join us for meals who are struggling with all the prices that keep rising,” he said. “We’ve also been providing them with furniture, vouchers for groceries and things like that.”

A figurine of the baby Jesus is pictured as Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve Mass. Photo: CNS, Vatican Media

Charbel Azzi, a director of Maronites on Mission, said his organisation is “definitely” seeing more requests for assistance, while donations are also down.

He said Santa would join the charity’s three weekly food runs at Christmas time, and Christmas hampers and gifts would be distributed to up to 40 families as part of its regular house visits across Sydney.

Nursing home residents at Dulwich Hill and Punchbowl will also receive gifts, and the organisation hopes to visit Westmead Children’s Hospital to distribute joy there too.

The Jesuit Refugee Service said the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have affected people seeking asylum most acutely, many of whom, including families with young children, will struggle this Christmas season to put food on the table.

“Many are willing and able to work but do not have work rights. They also do not qualify for a financial safety net, such as JobSeeker payments,” a spokesperson said.

“Catholic schools across the city are also gearing up to support families, organising donations for children’s toys and Christmas hampers in conjunction with this year’s Vinnies Christmas Appeal.”

“JRS is advocating with the Federal Government to devote resources to a program called SRSS, which provides basic support to refugees and people seeking asylum whilst their applications are finalised.

“It’s temporary support to help people get through a tough time, but as need has risen, funding has been cut by 85 per cent and eligibility criteria toughened. This leaves thousands of people exposed to hunger and destitution.”

JRS cannot accept gifts or toys this year due to COVID safety protocols and limited storage capacity, but gift vouchers are always welcome and allow families the option of spending on food, gifts, or school supplies.

Catholic schools across the city including St Mark’s Primary School Drummoyne, St Bernard’s Primary School, Botany and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School at Randwick are also gearing up to support families, organising donations for children’s toys and Christmas hampers in conjunction with this year’s Vinnies Christmas Appeal.

At St Mark’s alone, family educator Kenia Taouli said the school and parish community expect to donate more than 300 Christmas gifts for individuals ranging from infants to adults this year.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -