The end of any year can always be a hard time with most people looking forward to a welcome break over the Christmas and New Year period.  The last two years have seen an increase in the general lethargy at the end of the year, and it seemed that it was a crawl to the finish line of 2021 after emerging from lockdown and being blanketed with COVID fatigue.

I too had certainly been feeling this way but working at Karinya House around this time has once again proven to be an inspiring time of the year for me.

There is always a buzz that steadily builds as the month of December slides by, but it is not the buzz of upcoming leave and a time to relax that rings the loudest, it is the joy of preparing and ensuring that Christmas will be a joyful time for all the women we walk alongside at Karinya House.

We put the call out over our socials in November for people in the community to sponsor the families that we work with.  With true #kenbehrans (Canberran) community spirit we not only had enough people who were happy to sponsor a family, but we had a few extra’s who were happy to donate other needed items at this time.

This is the first time we have managed to have all families who were working with us in November, when the list was produced, to be sponsored by the community.  This has proven to be a great savings of both time and costs, both of which are so important at this time of year. The Christmas period can be a challenging for many of our women and this gift of time enables our caseworkers to spend quality time listening and helping our women navigate time in a positive way.

From the beginning of December, lovingly put together hampers by members of the community have been steadily dropped off. In watching these hampers being delivered you see the joy of giving on the faces of the donors, knowing they are doing something that will have a positive impact on someone else. You see their children being taught the valuable lesson of giving and caring for others. It is often in their youthful exuberance for the festive season and all that it brings that you can recognise the spirit of Christmas shining through!  You see the gratitude on the faces of the caseworkers who know that every woman and child will have precious gifts to open come Christmas morning and you can see the anticipation of the joy this will bring.

It is not just families and individuals that make a difference at this time of year. Community groups, government departments, social clubs and corporate organisations also get involved to make this time special for all at Karinya.

Due to COVID rules it was decided this year that the Group Christmas Party for the women and children we currently support would be an outside event to help with social distancing.  Nichola, who runs our group, envisioned a picnic on the foreshores of one of Canberra’s lakes. This way we could cater food to each individual family without having to have shared food platters.  When we were approached by the staff of a government department asking how they could help us, we explained our vision and asked if they could provide picnic rugs for each guest family.  Each rug could be used by an individual family and would double as a nice gift for their participation in the group throughout the year.  Not only did they offer to purchase the picnic rugs they also purchased fantastic picnic baskets as well as some gift vouchers to assist with the purchase of the food for the event.  Flexible as always the party was delayed a week to take advantage of a perfect summers day, rather than a stormy one, Upon arrival each family was given their own picnic basket which contained a picnic rug, a lovely nutritious meal along with some goodies and snacks for their festive lunch.  It was a great sight to behold, the sun shining and the spread of blankets across the grass with everybody enjoying the day. The women were delighted to be able to keep both blanket and basket for their one future picnics!

This was also a perfect example of how the staff have adapted through COVID restrictions to achieve the best possible outcome for all.

The ways in which some other corporate organisations, government departments or community organisations have helped this year is varied however still inspiring in every way.  Here are just a few examples:

  • One organisation’s staff chose to donate to Karinya is lieu of a Secret Santa Gifts.
  • Another organisation’s staff and a community organisation put together food hampers which were then delivered by Karinya staff to outreach families and distributed to on-site residents;
  • A Government Department set up their own donation URL for their staff to make donations direct to Karinya House.
  • A street in Ngunnawal who have wonderful Christmas light displays asking for a gold coin donation from visitors chose to support Karinya House.
  • Year 11 students from a community school put together some wonderful gift hampers which were used for women who came to Karinya closer to Christmas Day.

When you get to witness this village of care for others every day it reinforces the joy and magic of this time of year.  I have always loved Karinya House at Christmas time, it may be the end of the year and especially hectic for the Karinya team, however it is also a time of great inspiration for me.  Seeing not only the Canberra Community but the Karinya team work together to ensure the best festive season is had by all, is the best gift anyone could get.

This reflection was written by Sarah Kirkpatrick, Finance and Administration Officer, Karinya House – Christmas 2021