This Anti-Poverty Week, we’ve learned that poverty exists in the ‘lucky country’. We’ve seen the stats, but what does it look like for people? How does living under the Australian poverty line compare to international poverty? Best to ask someone who has experienced both.
Meet Keth. She grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled South Sudan.
"It's hard when you are born during a war time and your family flee. I've seen many, many things that have made me strong. Even though I had a hard life, I had to survive and think positively."
Keth has experienced firsthand the impact of extreme and relative poverty. Growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya was tough, as even the most basic of items were in short supply.
“Life was very hard: I remember having to share one pen between four of us at school. I had to walk a long distance every day to collect water and firewood and carry it back to my family.”
When Keth came to Australia, she was blown away by the abundance of opportunities. She settled in and made a new life for herself.
“I felt like I was in heaven and was thankful to God for helping this to happen. I was able to go to school; I got married here.”
This experience of hope did not last forever. Keth’s husband left her to raise their children on her own, and she struggled to provide. Barely staying afloat, she had to make impossible decisions —pay rent or feed her children?
Then something happened that Keth couldn’t have expected; a car accident. Swerving to avoid an animal, she hit three other cars. Money was tight; her insurance only covered the damage to her car. An already difficult financial situation spiralled out of control.
Many find it hard to imagine how anyone could get themselves into serious debt. It’s easy to assume to irresponsibility, greed, or laziness paves the way. This was not the case for Keth.
She took out a loan to pay for the damages from the accident, but without a job or a partner to support her, making ends meet was impossible.
“From there the bills kept piling up and I felt so hopeless. I wondered why this was happening to me when I had little children. There were days I was so depressed that I didn’t want other people to see me, so I just stayed inside. I tried to get work, but no one would hire me because I had no experience.”
Something had to give. Without change, Keth’s family would have to go without regular, nutritious meals, so important for her young children’s development. If one of them got sick or hurt, there would be no money to call upon for treatment.
Keth made the difficult decision to split up her family. With prospects of work in Perth, Keth and her seven-year-old son moved, leaving behind her three-year-old daughter with Keth’s mother in Adelaide. Childcare was too expensive, and she was too young to be left with a stranger.
Keth felt lonely a lot of the time. Her son would appeal to her to have his sister join them, before she begins to forget them.
Isolated, bound by debt and occupied by caring for her children, Keth had no one to lean on and no way to pull herself out of her situation. Her opportunities were limited, relationships few and it was difficult to provide stability for her family. For the second time in her life, Keth was grappling with poverty.
This is not the end of Keth’s story. Keth was referred to CAP, where she met Emma, a CAP Debt Coach.
Emma came around to Keth's house and they put all her bills out on the table and prayed together. Keth immediately felt a sense of relief and hope. It reminded her of a moment months prior when she had placed her bills out on the table and prayed to God for help.
"I put all my bills on the table and I said to God in my heart ‘I need you to help me pay these bills’, and that’s when I knew I would not pay them alone. When I look back at all the things that have happened from that time until now, I can see that God answered my prayer. I thank God that CAP came into my life."
CAP spoke to Keth’s creditors on her behalf, no longer did she need to stress about calls from the bank. On her first visit, Emma was accompanied by another member of The Red Door Community Church, simply to be a friend to Keth and show her that she is loved and cared for. Keth sleeps soundly again and she is now able to study. She is excited to use this study to get a job where she can help other people, and in time have her daughter and mother join Keth and her son in Perth.
"I will never ever forget in my life what CAP offered for me. The gift, the prayer, the help they have been to my family. They have given me happiness and hope again."
When Keth was in the refugee camp, she experienced hopelessness and lack, never knowing if her future would ever look different. Sitting in her Perth home wrestling with debt, that familiar feeling returned. No two stories of poverty, here or abroad, will look exactly alike. But what is clear is that no one should be subject to this destroyer of hope.
Praise God that Keth was not left in her desperate situation! Her family has hope to be reunited and for a bright future again. Because of our incredible ‘Life Changers’, Emma was able to reach Keth during her moment of need and be the answer to her prayers.
But, there are millions of other Aussies that still need this hope. This Anti-Poverty Week, answer more prayers like Keth’s by becoming a Life Changer.