The Impact of Contradictions in Charity

A while back, I posted our budget in a post about Blue Care…  It’s pretty tight as you can see if you want to go have a look.

We are trying to pay down all our debt at the moment and are cutting back even more wherever we can.  The future is a mass of unknowns and may include some major moving, so I want to be as prepared as I can be just in case our last Hail Mary here doesn’t work out.

So – we have resorted to going to charity for help.  And quite frankly, if I knew before what I know now, I would have done so sooner just so that I could write about it.

Let me start at the beginning…  We had a social worker come over to see us and talk about various help (mainly financial) that may be available.  She mentioned to us that St Vinnies here in town offers food hampers to those in need.  Just call up and let them know you need some help.  So I called, and was informed that I could just turn up during working hours and get a hamper after a quick interview with a volunteer.

So BJ and I went along.  It was a few days before pay day and we were running out of things and I wanted to see if we could go without another shop (and put that money toward our debt instead).  We arrived, had trouble getting to the back of the shed due to my wheelchair, and finally took our ticket and went to the waiting room (which involved furniture being moved to accommodate my chair).  Over an hour we waited our turn.  Which would have been fine, except the waiting room was so dank and dungy and just “ugh” that it screamed “low-life scum”.  Our self-esteem eroded by the minute and we actually talked about leaving before we were called in.

The interview itself didn’t go much better.  The two people were nice enough, for sure.  Seriously, these were nice people – especially the woman.  She was really very sweet.  It was the interview itself that sucked.  They had a form to fill out that demanded to know our income, our expenses, our history and when we thought we might be able to return to work – and whether we smoked and how much a month we drank.

I shit. you. not.

(and for any nosy shits who think it IS their business – I smoke (allergic to patches) 5 – 8 per day in order to counteract serious side effects of medication I take – don’t like it?  Take it up with the three GP’s, psychologist and dietician who have all told me to keep smoking for now.  And QuitLine, who told me the same.  And we have a couple of drinks per year.  Usually one or two for a birthday or Christmas Eve or whatever.  I still have alcohol in the cupboard from when we were married six and a half years ago).

We were supposed to bring in an income statement letter from Centrelink, but as I didn’t have one, they took my word for it.  And copied our pension cards.

Then we were taken to the back and the woman went to get our box of food.  There was enough dry groceries there for maybe two days for the four of us.  Cereal, rice, a few cans of stuff, that sort of thing.  Fresh food consisted of a bag of tangerines and a bag of snow peas (YUM!).  We appreciated everything we were given, for sure, especially the snow peas lol.  We normally don’t get them as they are expensive, so they were an awesome treat for me.

It was great to have some food, and even a treat, but the interview experience had me in tears, so we vowed never to go back, no matter what.  I couldn’t go through that again.

And then we heard about another food bank in town.  This one is a “hamper” for $25.  We had been told that you need to take your pension card, however my husband wasn’t asked for one today when he went in.  No questions.  No interview.  No feeling like shit.  He just walked in, asked for a hamper (somewhat tentatively after our last experience), and was given one.

Actually, he was given two.  And a bag of frozen goods.  One box was fresh fruit and veges – better quality than we have seen in the supermarkets!!!  And a wide range!!!  Holy hell – seriously, everything from potatoes through to fresh sage.  Two fruits – oranges and apples.

We also received sausages, ice-blocks (melted, but still), a sourdough stick, bread, bread rolls, a meringue larger than a family pizza (YUM!!!), 8 small banana milks, normal milk, butter milk, a whole box of individual strawberry yoghurts!!!  And a huge box of dry groceries from biscuits to cans to bubblegum!!!!!

Seriously, it feels like Christmas in this house at the moment.  I’m having heaps of toasted sourdough with butter at the moment and feel like a queen (that’ll do ME for dinner lol)!  There was just so much there, and it all looks so good, that I’m teary lol…  There are heaps of kids treats too, so they’ll be happy tomorrow 🙂

And BJ, who is not prone to emotion, let alone tears, also got teary.  Not for the food (though I’m not expecting the banana milks to last very long now that the kids have tried them and decided they don’t like them lmao), but for the way he was treated.  He was treated like a person.  A human.  No questions that quietly accuse in the background.  “Do you really need this?”  “Do you really DESERVE this?”  As if sitting in that depressing fucking waiting room for over an hour wasn’t proof enough.

BJ came home, compared the two experiences and said “it’s no wonder that some people decide it’s just not worth it and kill themselves”.  I agree.  It’s no fucking wonder.

So what can we do about it?  Next time you donate to charity, do your homework.  Only donate to organisations that are worthy of your hard earned money.  There are a lot out there that have good advertising campaigns, but really treat their clients like shit.  And in our case, it wasn’t a problem with staffing – for they were amazing.  It was the processes they were being forced to follow.

The organisation that does the food hampers in town here doesn’t have a website.  But here is an article about them.  And another.

When we win the lotto, we will be making a sizable donation *grin*.

Disability consumer and activist. Pissed off since 1995... Mad as a hatter since way before that.

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Pissed off since 1995. Mad as a hatter since way before that.

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