When Sarah* first joined the LIVEfree Project’s Inspire Women’s group she was in a bad place. She had been through domestic violence and had been battling drug, alcohol and gambling addictions for three and a half decades. Every day was a struggle. She was in active addiction with poor mental health as she tried her best to care for her two young children.
Support for domestic violence survivors
Based in Newcastle, the LIVEfree Project supports people who have experienced hardship and trauma, particularly victims of domestic and family violence. The nonprofit received a Sisters of Charity Foundation Community Grant to help fund Inspire Women, an education and mentoring program that equips women with vital life skills including budgeting, job-readiness, cooking, communication, managing relationships, and dealing with trauma. Participants strengthen their emotional wellbeing and resilience through therapeutic crafts and by sharing their stories and connecting with other women in a safe space.
‘’There’s been no judgement with my drug, alcohol and gambling past – even from the beginning as I went through my addiction, support and guidance were offered without judgement,” says Sarah. “And I still don’t feel judged for having that history.”
After joining the group, Sarah and her family started receiving further help through LIVEfree’s grocery and essential item delivery service, at-home wellbeing visits, the Smile & Thrive Dental Program for primary school-aged children, and attending the weekly breakfast program.
Turning over a new leaf
Over the past three years Sarah has grown an immeasurable amount. She is now more than 200 days clean and is focused on her recovery journey. “I was in active addiction for three and half decades, I’m not going to be cured overnight, it’s going to take time and I’m going to be patient,” she explains. “Everything’s a work in progress, I’m still working on myself and I’m okay with that.”
She has also learnt to treat herself with kindness. “I’ve learnt to forgive myself for the life that I’ve led and have some compassion toward myself,” Sarah says, “which has helped me with a lot of the guilt and shame around raising two children in a drug-affected environment, with unstable mental health.”
Sarah believes LIVEfree’s holistic approach has helped enormously with her progress. “You don’t just look after the individual you try to help wherever you can, it’s not just the person, it’s the environment, the kids, the home, the surrounding needs… you make sure that person has what they need to survive on the right path,” she explains.
“Sarah is an amazingly fierce woman, she is strong, resilient and a caring mum who is working her hardest every single day to be in a better place for herself and her children,” says LIVEfree Project Director Chris Jones. “It has been a privilege to walk alongside Sarah in her recovery journey for the last three years and we’ll continue to do so for the next three and beyond. Because recovery isn’t easy, it’s not simple and we recognise that it takes time and continued support along the way.”
Sarah is now in a place where she has the strength and emotional capacity to support others. “When you support someone else, the most important thing is to identify the similarities, not the differences,” she says. “If I am given the opportunity to support someone, I listen for the similarities, because I can then empathise and understand to a certain degree that person’s story or journey and support them to the best of my ability. This is an opportunity for me to give away what has so freely been given to me – support.”
About the Community Grants Program
Every year the Sisters of Charity Foundation provides grants of up to $15,000 to small not-for-profits across Australia, like the LIVEfree Project, that use clever ways to fight poverty, loneliness, suffering and oppression. Learn more at Community Grants Program.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.
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