Prior to working at Presbyterian Support East Coast (PSEC) I worked in the local government/corporate business world. I’m embarrassed to say family violence and child poverty were barely on my radar – it was a foreign and scary world I knew nothing about.
I’m grateful to say it is on my radar now thanks to the amazing counsellors, social workers and parent educators I have the privilege to work with, through PSEC’s Family Works services. Boy do they have their work cut out for them! In the past year they provided social services and programmes for 1,915 clients! That’s right here in our “backyard”, on the East Coast. A sad reality many people find easier to ignore.
I’d like to tell you a story of “Stranger to Angel” that one of my PSEC colleagues has shared with me with the permission of the person she worked alongside. It is a story of hope, of giving to the world and how it can come back to you.
It goes like this...
“Last year I met a stranger – a 6ft tall, dark-haired, handsome 20-year-old man while I was out in the community. We chatted about life, our jobs, our interests, and during several further encounters over a period of a month or so we talked more about our family life. He was interested to know that I was a Social Worker and he shared that in his life he had known lots of social workers.
"He shared that he had been brought up by a family member after he and his sibling had been removed from his mother’s care because of child abuse when he was 10. He told me more of his story. He told me that as a result of him “sharing the secret” and talking to a social worker about what he had experienced, how his mother had been found guilty of child abuse, and that she had gone to prison.
“The more he told his story, the more it became familiar to me. He shared more about the social worker and what he had told her had happened for him when he was in his mother’s care. And then he stopped, and he looked at me and he said, 'You’re the one... You’re the social worker that came, and you listened to me'. I nodded.
“In that moment when I looked into those 20-year-old eyes – I saw the forlorn eyes of the scared, confused and hurt little boy I had met 10 years earlier looking back at me. A little boy, who had been living in fear and had been the protector of his younger sibling. A little boy whose life had been filled with pain and suffering that no child should ever have to endure.
“Then he exclaimed 'It’s me'. He said his name and asked, ‘Do you remember me?’ Then he said three words that I will never forget – ‘You saved me’. He went on to say, ‘You are like an angel, and you don’t realise how you changed my life – by listening. You are my guardian angel’.
“What this young man doesn’t know, is that from that moment on he became my guardian angel. The one that sits on my shoulder and continuously reminds me of why the work we do is so important. We help create hope and support for children and their families to find a path from the dark and into the light of a positive future. Being part of his life’s journey gives me purpose every day in my role and makes me want to ensure that we are committed in our work to create hope and make a difference in the lives of others.
“This story of stranger to angel is unique, but it is not an uncommon one experienced by the staff working at Family Works who are angels to the children who need someone to hear their voice, to listen and to help strengthen safety and protection their home environment . We want to make a difference, but we cannot do this work alone.”
By now you may be wondering how you can help make a difference. You can start by donating to my Marathon Mission for Family Works. I am running the Auckland Marathon on 28 October to raise $5,000 to give 10 children like the angel in this story access to social work, counselling and other help they need to live a safe and fulfilling life.
You see Family Works, along with PSEC’s other services, is a charitable service so the more money we can raise the more children and families we can help.
They say if you want to change the world, go home and love your family. We believe all children and families are worthy of love.
You can donate by clicking the button below – every dollar helps.Thank you!
Monique Jeffares is the Communications Manager for Presbyterian Support East Coast. This blog is the first in a series following her marathon journey, aiming to raise money and support for Family Works.
If you''d like more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org