One of our team, Sarah, had cause recently to reflect on why she works at Karinya House.  Sarah has been with Karinya since 15 December 2003.

This is her Christmas Story ..…

Waking up that morning I was a bundle of nerves with a healthy dose of excitement thrown in.  I was doing my first shift at Karinya House, a supported accommodation facility for homeless pregnant and parenting women.  Up until a couple of months prior to this day I wasn’t even aware there was a need for this, let alone a waiting list. 

I was leaving 14 years of working in the finance industry to start my new career as a support worker, which enabled me to work part-time and be home more for my kids. 

What awaited me that day was unclear, but I was told to dress comfortably.  After dropping my kids at school, I arrived in the quiet suburban street and knocked on the front door of an average looking house, my new workplace, to be welcomed by a colleague. 

I was taken to the garage which was filled with Christmas Gift Hampers for the families we worked with, both in our residential homes as well as our outreach families.  My task for the day was to deliver these hampers along with food hampers containing Christmas fare, goodies and treats for the festive season. 

It was left up to me deliver the hampers as I saw fit from the list I was given.  All the women receiving the hampers were expecting me sometime today.  I asked where the hampers came from and was told that each hamper was lovingly filled by the women’s caseworker.  The contents were based on the individual’s family members and their specific needs wherever possible.  The goods themselves had been donated from the wider community in the lead up to Christmas.  

I grouped my deliveries by area, packed up my first load and off I headed.  I had never met any of the women I was to meet that day and I was a little bit apprehensive about some of the homes and areas I may be delivering to that day. 

What a day I had!  From the first delivery to the last nearly six hours later I was overwhelmed by the gratitude shown by the women I spoke to that day.  This gratitude ranged from squeals of excitement and the outpouring of tears and hugs to quiet thanks and shy smiles. No matter it’s form it made its mark on me that day.  

During these conversations, I was at times hustled furtively into garages with the goods, so children wouldn’t see what was being delivered.  I handed bags over fences, so items could be secured in sheds and hidden in backyards. I tried both successfully and unsuccessfully to distract toddlers while their often-pregnant mothers tried to surreptitiously hide presents in cupboards.  It was a roller coaster of the unexpected which kept me on my toes but what fun I had, laughing along with and chatting with these women.  They varied in so many ways but the one thread that was common to all was the gratitude that they showed towards Karinya.  

What I learnt that day, about the organisation I was now working for, was invaluable.  I saw the true impact that our staff had on these women’s lives, not just with the delivery of these hampers, but in the other stories they told me during my short stay.  It was clear that being involved with Karinya had made a difference in their lives and that they were grateful for it all. 

Going home that evening to be surrounded by my family I realised for maybe truly the first time how lucky I was in life.  I also had an inkling I had made the right choice for both my family and I choosing my new job.  I thought I was going to love it. 

It has been 20 years this Christmas, I am still working at Karinya, and I still love watching the caseworkers lovingly prepare the Christmas Hampers each year and am reminded fondly of my first day!