Lena is afraid, alone and in pain.
Her husband, gone. Her house, ransacked by thieves. Her children, terrified in their own home.
With your generous gift before 15 December, we can give Lena and her family immediate financial assistance, emotional support and intensive case management to get them through the coming days and weeks.
When Lena* arrived on the doorstep of our Southern Outreach office in Marion, she was desperate. She cautiously approached the front desk, and said one simple word, ‘housing’.
It was one of the only English words she knew. Lena was holding herself together, just one last time. She was at breaking point.
That moment Lena reached out to ARA was life-changing for her. At our small Southern Outreach office, she finally found someone she could trust. Lena was connected with a kind, compassionate and resourceful Arabic speaking case worker – a former refugee herself – who began to help Lena put the pieces of her life back together.
But Lena is still struggling. Her children are struggling, too. There is so much more we need to do. We cannot
leave her side now.
Young families like Lena’s need your help. Will you please open your heart with a very kind gift before 15 December?
Across Adelaide, from Smithfield to Flagstaff Hill, there are families in desperate need of assistance, just like Lena. Families who would simply fall through the cracks without us. Without you.
Since ARA started the Emergency Support Service (ESS), we have been overwhelmed by the generous response from our wonderful donors.
The Emergency Support Service is a unique, much-needed, safety net funded entirely by donations – a pool of funds available for ARA caseworkers to use immediately, for anyone who needs it, no matter where they live.
By donating to the Emergency Support Service today, you can help people who don’t fit the mould or tick all the boxes.
Families like Lena’s don’t qualify for help in the ‘usual places’ – nor do they feel comfortable asking for help from people who are unfamiliar, outside their immediate community and may not understand their situation.
Due to language and cultural barriers people like Lena find it extremely difficult to answer stressful and probing questions, wait on hold on a phone call or stand in a queue. These families need help right now. There are lives at risk. Some are unwell, homeless or have no idea where their next meal is coming from. Some are fleeing violence. They are in desperate need, through no fault of their own.
Thanks to you and your kindness, the Emergency Support Service has provided urgent, practical, life-changing assistance for dozens and dozens of people: food, fuel vouchers, bedding, emergency accommodation, or connection to critical medical help.
These first steps are a pathway to a better future. The Emergency Support Service will empower Lena and gently lift her and the
children out of ‘survival mode’ so they can feel safe and whole again.
But this is only possible with your help.
Lena has already lost her husband. Now, she is afraid of losing her children.
Lena, her husband and mother-in-law all worked as cleaners in a local hotel in Eritrea. But the hotel was used by people smugglers. The government put pressure on hotel workers to act as ‘informers’ and provide details on who stayed at the hotel.
“We scared to pass on information but also scared to stay quiet. Scared for our lives and our children’s lives. We could have been killed,” said Lena.
Lena and the family fled to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they stayed for five long, hard years as they waited to find some way to move on to a better life. Fortunately, they were sponsored to come to Australia. They arrived in 2019, hoping for a new start. But just
months after arriving, Lena was plunged into an even worse situation.
“We had to do a blood test. My husband he tested HIV positive. We broke up, we didn’t know what to do. After 15 years our marriage over.”
Lena was left to raise the three children, alone.
“It was very hard to be a single mum in a new country. I don’t know anything about the country, and I have three kids with me, I have to look after them myself.
“My husband, he speak English very well and do all the finances. But suddenly, I find myself, I have to do everything. I don’t have English. Very hard, so lonely.”
Lena took a lease on a flat. “I say to the agent, ‘I want six month only, right?’ But they send contract with one year. I could not read it. I just sign it and send it back.”
For a little while, things were looking up. The children settled in school and were learning English, making friends. Lena had help to get her driver’s licence and attend TAFE to learn English, too.
Then one day, there was a hard knock on their front door. When they opened it, there was no one there. The knocking began happening at all times of the day and night. It was very frightening.
Then one day the family returned home to a devastating sight.
“Someone comes in the house, break everything in the house, even destroy the sofa, everything. I had little bit of money and gold, and they left nothing.”
“My children do not want to stay in the house, they are too scared.”
Can you imagine Lena’s despair? Even the kids’ ‘piggy bank’ jar filled with small change coins was gone. This harassment and intimidation, knocking on the door, someone waiting outside in the darkness at night, has not stopped. The family feels powerless.
“My children do not want to stay in the house, they are too scared. They stay at their grandma house. My middle son, Ali* , he tell me, I won’t come home, mum. They have stress and anxiety. I don’t know if they will even go to school some days.”
Lena has to take the children from the flat to Grandma’s house, to school and back every single day, to get food and do washing. She is trying to be the best mum she can. Lena hides her fear and distress from them. “No, no. I don’t want them to know what I’m going through.”
Now, Lena does not feel welcome or safe anywhere.
Her mother-in-law is not supportive of Lena during this stressful time. She makes them feel unwelcome and unwanted. “She always complain, ‘How long you stay? When you leave?’ Every time she say it, I feel stress and pain.” All Lena wants to do is to make her family feel whole again, in a new place. But despite the harassment and intimidation she has experienced, her landlord insists Lena pay break-lease and letting fees if she wants to end her tenancy early.
This is why our Southern Outreach office, located just 10 minutes from Lena’s home, is so important. Lena can visit her case worker here or call when she needs advice and reassurance.
The stress is taking a terrible toll.
After so many months of pressure and uncertainty, Lena is now experiencing mental health issues. She has
severe anxiety and depression. Every time Lena visits the office, she holds her head in her hands and weeps.
“I am feeling in pain most of the time. Especially at the night when I sleep, I feel pain in my ears, and headache half of my head. At night, I wake up, I feel like someone choking me. I feel there’s no oxygen. I couldn’t breathe.”
Our case workers are highly trained, compassionate, special people. Many are former refugees themselves. They go above and beyond for everyone who walks through our doors, always thinking ‘outside the box’ to find short, intermediate and long-term solutions. Your kindness today will mean our case workers can use funds from the ESS to dedicate additional hours and resources, bringing emotional support, practical help and a pathway to hope.
There’s just one thing Lena can hold onto right now – her fierce love for her children.
Her face lights up when she speaks of her boys, her daughter, how they are learning English, how proud she is of them. She wants them all together, under one roof – a happy family, free of fear. “I feel very happy they are learning and talking to each other in English. Before the robbery, we were starting to feel happy. I want again.”
People like Lena will always have ARA by their side.
Lena wants life to change. She wants a new future for her family and will do anything to make it happen. “I love to see myself speaking good English, so I can deal with my issue, I can talk to people. I can see myself in an aged care course, so I can get a job. I will love to look after older people, and my kids too.”
Will you please make this happen for Lena? Right now, the only people Lena can rely on is ARA and you. She has no one else to help her move towards her dream of a brighter future.
Australian Refugee Association
PS. As such a caring person, I know you want people like Lena to succeed, settle happily and make a new life. If you are able to send your gift towards ARA’s Emergency Support Service before 15 December, it would be the most special Christmas gift of all.
*We change names to protect the privacy of our clients