Despite a life of challenges and pain, June had never asked for help.
A positive, eloquent and fiercely independent disability pensioner who budgets meticulously, June smiles as she recalls the day she reluctantly walked into The Salvation Army centre at Dickson, Canberra, to ask for help.
“I just fell apart, I really did. I felt so sorry for the young girl who spoke to me, but she was just brilliant,” June says.
“The worst part was, the day that I went to The Salvation Army would have been my son's 40th birthday.”
In the 1980s, June was raising four children on her own, after her husband left the family, when she tragically lost her sons, aged 13 and 18, in a car accident. Her daughter also suffered injuries in this accident.
But this was not the end of the challenges June would face.
After nursing her daughter back to health, a series of circumstances left June living in a public-housing complex where drug-dealing was rife. Older residents rarely left their homes out of fear.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want to have my grandchildren come visit because of what might happen, and so you live hidden away and afraid. I was so scared ... my nervous system was just in tatters,” she says.
Then, three years ago, June was given the “life-saving” opportunity to move into a Salvos Housing complex in Narrabundah.
“It has been remarkable,” she says. “I have halved my medication for thyroid and depression. For the first time in years, my blood pressure has finally come down and I’ve lost a lot of weight because I can get out and about. I have brilliant neighbours and Salvos Housing has been marvellous.”
After three years in the apartment, June once again found herself in a desperate situation – her washing machine had broken down and was beyond repair, and she also needed a new bed.
June was resigned to washing by hand. But combining this with a bad back and sleeping on a makeshift fold-out bed, she says “my back was killing me and there were days that I couldn’t move”.
So when June walked into The Salvation Army centre, she was quite desperate, but also feeling ashamed at asking for help.
What she discovered was compassion and care. She was introduced to The Salvation Army's No Interest Loans Scheme (NILS), which not only helped her buy a new bed and washing machine, but also allowed her to maintain her independence and dignity.
“I saw Bob O’Heir (who oversees the Salvos NILS Service in Canberra) and he was brilliant. He knew the state I was in and was he absolutely wonderful!" June says.
“I hope that reading this might help someone else. I was so embarrassed and I’d never asked for anything before, but you don’t have to be like that. That is why Salvos are there and that is what the loans are for, to stop you going too far backwards and help you back on your feet. I really can’t thank the Salvos enough.”
By Naomi Singlehurst
Photograph by Lindsay Dunn
Story origionally published by the Salvation Army under the heading "NILS hand-up through life's storms."