What is Poverty in Australia? – Keth’s Story
Written by Oliver on October 16, 2019
Over the course of Anti-Poverty Week, it’s become clear poverty certainly does exist in the ‘lucky country’. Though what does this look like on an individual level? How does living under the Australian poverty line compare to international poverty? Best to ask someone who has experienced both.
Meet Keth. She grew up in a refugee camp in Kenya after her family fled South Sudan. Keth has experienced firsthand the effect of both extreme and relative poverty. Growing up in a refugee camp in Kenya was tough, as even the most basic of items were in short supply.
“Life was very hard: I remember having to share one pen between four of us at school. I had to walk a long distance every day to collect water and carry it back to my family.”
When Keth first came to Australia, she was blown away by the abundance of opportunities. She settled in and made a new life for herself.
“I felt like I was in heaven and was thankful to God for helping this to happen. I was able to go to school; I got married here.”
Unfortunately, this experience of hope did not last forever. Keth’s husband left her to raise their children on her own; and before long she was struggling to provide. Barely staying afloat, she had to weigh up competing necessities such as – how to pay rent while putting food on the table.
Then something happened that Keth couldn’t have expected; she got in a car accident. An animal suddenly appeared on the road and caused her to swerve but in doing so she hit three other cars. As money was tight, her insurance only covered the damage to her car. An already difficult situation was hit hard financially and spiraled out of control.
For those who have always been financially secure, it can be hard to imagine how anyone could get themselves into serious debt. It’s often assumed to be because of irresponsibility, greed, or laziness. This was not the case for Keth.
She took out a loan to pay for the damages from the accident but without a job or a partner to support her, it was impossible.
“From there the bills kept piling up and I felt so hopeless. I wondered why this was happening to me when I had little children. There were days I was so depressed that I didn’t want other people to see me, so I just stayed inside. I tried to get work, but no one would hire me because I had no experience.”
If Keth did not make a change, something was going to drop. Her family would have to go without regular nutritious meals which were important for her young children’s development. If one of them got sick or hurt, there would be no money to call upon for treatment. So Keth made the difficult decision to split up her family. With prospects of work in Perth, Keth and her 7-year-old son moved, leaving behind her 3-year-old daughter with Keth’s mother in Adelaide. Childcare was simply not an option while Keth was still without a job, and she was too young to be left with a stranger.
Keth felt lonely a lot of the time and her son would appeal to her to have his sister join them before she began to forget them.
For some people, unwise financial decisions do lead to debt. Yet for others, circumstances beyond their control put them there: illness, marriage breakdown, or an accident.
Jesus shows compassion towards those in need, regardless of their situation or how they found themselves in it. At Christians Against Poverty, we do the same.
The reality is, right now on your street; sitting next to you at church; behind you in the coffee queue – someone is struggling. Poverty doesn’t discriminate – and while people might be good at putting a brave face on for friends and family, behind closed doors they’re drowning. No two stories of poverty will look exactly alike.
Isolated, bound by debt and occupied by caring for her children, Keth had no one to lean on and no way to pull herself out of her situation. Her opportunities were limited, relationships few and it was difficult to provide stability for her family. For the second time in her life, Keth was grappling with poverty.
Fortunately, this is not the end of Keth’s story. Thankfully, Keth was referred to CAP where she met Emma, a CAP Debt Coach.
Emma came around to Keth’s house and they put all her bills out on the table and prayed together. Keth immediately felt a sense of relief and hope. Before even hearing of CAP, Keth had placed her bills out on the table just like she did with Emma and prayed to God for help.
“I put all my bills on the table and I said to God in my heart ‘I need you to help me pay these bills’, and that’s when I knew I would not pay them alone. When I look back at all the things that have happened from that time until now, I can see that God answered my prayer. I thank God that CAP came into my life.”
Keth sleeps soundly again, as the bank stopped calling and she is able to study. She hopes this will help her get a job where she can help others and in time; have her daughter and mother join Keth and her son in Perth.
“I will never ever forget in my life what CAP offered for me. The gift, the prayer, the help they have been to my family. They have given me happiness and hope again.”
When Keth was in the refugee camp, she experienced hopelessness and lack, never knowing if her future would ever look different. Sitting in her Perth home in the midst of her debt, that familiar feeling returned.
We praise God that Keth was not left in her desperate situation, that her family has hope to be reunited and for a bright future again. Because of our incredible ‘Life Changers’, Emma was able to reach Keth during her moment of need.
But there are millions of other Aussies that still need this hope. I would encourage you, if your heart is moved by the plight of the poor in Australia, head over to our website to find out what you and your church can do.
CEO, Christians Against Poverty
Rosie is the CEO of CAP Australia and has been working for CAP both here and in the UK for 10 years. She loves the church and seeing the bride of Christ respond to Jesus’ call to serve the poor and save the lost. She is passionate about equipping others to flourish in all that God has created them to be. Rosie’s husband Dave also works at CAP and they have three beautiful daughters, Esther, Lydia and the most recent addition, Maeve.