Tamara and her youngest son, Asher… Seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought unparalleled challenges which have affected each of us in different ways.
In the past year, over 18,000 calls for support were received by Jewish Care’s COVID-19 Helpline – double the 6,000 calls typically received each year.
One of these calls was from Tamara*; a single mother of three children – 16-year-old Abigail*, 12-year-old Leo* and 10-year-old Asher*.
This is Tamara’s story.
To the outside world, it seemed Tamara had the perfect life. She was the doting mother to three delightful children, had a career she enjoyed and her husband was charismatic and charming around friends and family. But what most people didn’t know was that Tamara and her children were living with family violence every day.
Last year, when Abigail turned 15, Tamara took the daunting step of leaving her husband with the help of her loving and supportive parents.
The following weeks and months were very difficult for Tamara while she adjusted to life as a single mum. She was living off a sole income, just making ends meet and added to that, her ex-husband managed to gain shared custody of her children; a constant source of tension between the two. However, Tamara was grateful to be living separately from him, to have a job that she loved in events management and was most grateful that she was able to provide a loving, happy home for her children.
Then… the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.
Tamara’s world was, once again, turned upside down.
At the start of the first lockdown, Tamara’s father suffered a fatal heart attack. Exacerbating the devastating and shocking loss, she was unable to gather for shiva with friends and extended family due to restrictions.
Compounding her crisis, Tamara was stood down from her job as an events coordinator not long after her father passed away. Initially she was receiving JobKeeper payments, but the business was not able to retain their staff and let 60% of them go, including Tamara.
Adding to the series of catastrophic events, Tamara struggled with helping her children with online learning; especially Asher, who missed his friends and battled without face-to-face teaching.
Tamara found herself unable to sleep at night; filled with anxiety as to how she would manage everything, particularly paying the rent and putting food on the table. Plagued with thoughts of potential homelessness, Tamara fell into a debilitating depression.
Rather than try to help, Tamara’s ex-husband saw this as an opportunity to refuse Tamara access to her children. Again, this had an enormous impact on all the children, especially young Asher.
Tamara felt like her whole world had fallen out from under her. Not knowing where to turn, a friend suggested she reach out to Jewish Care for help.
A Jewish Care Social Worker helped Tamara to identify that her mental health was her number one priority so she could have her children home with her again. The social worker referred her to a psychologist and guided Tamara through the process of accessing a mental health care plan.
A Jewish Care Financial Counsellor advocated for Tamara to be placed on hardship programs with her utility companies and advocated through VCAT for a rent reduction for six months, making an enormous difference in just a short period of time, taking a great deal of pressure off Tamara.
Jewish Care also arranged for healthy, frozen meals to be delivered to Tamara’s doorstep as well as boxes of pantry items.
Soon, Tamara felt ready to start looking for work. An Employment Consultant at Jewish Care’s Employment Centre helped Tamara find suitable work as a Community Ambassador for her local council. Tamara soon found that getting out of the house and helping people made her feel much better.
This led to a return of the original custody arrangement, with Tamara’s children coming to stay one week on and one week off.
Tamara and her children were ecstatic to be together again!
Without Jewish Care, Tamara’s trajectory would have been very different.
Tamara recently told her friend: “We are so lucky to have Jewish Care to turn to.”
There are thousands of people who, like Tamara, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and reached out to Jewish Care for support with food items, rent assistance and financial aid, just to mention a few.
Jewish Care is now in its 172nd year and, with its robust infrastructure, is uniquely positioned to help those most in need in the most responsible, efficient and holistic ways possible - through a pandemic and beyond. Whether assistance is needed for housing, employment, financial aid, financial counselling, disability or any other vital service, Jewish Care is here for our community, every day.
With the drastic increase in calls for help, those in serious need in our community depend on you. This year, we need to raise $3.6 million. As the caring and generous community that we are, we need to stand together to help each other so please give generously to Jewish Care’s 2021 Community Appeal.
Together, we can enrich lives.
Whatever your gift, you can be certain that it will make a difference!