14 December 2021

A Vinnies Christmas to support people who are struggling after a tough year

| James Coleman
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Vinnies volunteers visiting homeless couple Heidi and Nikolas

Vinnies volunteers visiting Heidi and Nikolas when they were living in a local Canberra park. Photo: St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

With the flurry of gifts and good times around Christmas, it’s easy to forget the people who are doing it tough – and there are plenty out there.

Just as COVID-19 began to decimate lives around Australia and the world in early 2020, two volunteers from the local arm of St Vincent de Paul Society, or Vinnies, were told of a couple living in a local park.

Upon closer inspection, they discovered a young couple, Heidi and Nikolas, who were pregnant with a baby due the following month. The couple had been without a home for a while, when couch surfing with friends and family was no longer an option.

The sad reality is Heidi and Nikolas are far from alone. A recent report puts the number of Canberrans living in poverty at more than 38,000, including 8000 children.

Every year, various local charities seek to improve the lives of these people, but this Christmas it is believed they’ll be needing even more help than usual.

Former homeless couple Heidi and Nikolas

Former homeless couple Heidi and Nikolas aren’t alone. Photo: St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

Vinnies is calling for the Canberra community to get onboard with its Christmas Appeal for 2021, helping the organisation to help others through financial donations, gifts and food hampers.

President of the St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn John Feint said that even as we begin to ease back into normal life after COVID-19 lockdown, “it is important to remember that sense of connectedness we had as a community throughout the pandemic”.

“Our contribution, big or small, matters to our friends, our neighbours and our community,” he said. “Providing a donation for a hamper or a small gift for a child will help a struggling family have a happier Christmas.”

Last Christmas, Vinnies Canberra/Goulburn provided support to the value of $419,450 through financial assistance, 2040 food hampers, and gifts for children and adults. This year’s Vinnies Christmas Appeal is aiming to raise at least $275,000 in the Canberra and Goulburn region.

Vinnies volunteer with food hamper

A Vinnies food hamper en route to someone who needs it. Photo: St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

“With an extreme number of job losses, recent reduction in government support at the conclusion of lockdowns, and housing affordability at an extraordinary high, this festive period will be one of the toughest yet for many people in our region,” said Mr Feint.

Vinnies is receiving backing from several local organisations including law firm Snedden Hall & Gallop (SHG).

The two organisations used to share an office building in Deakin, and during the years they grew to know each other well with SHG supporting Vinnies’ fundraisers and providing legal aid.

SHG managing director Richard Faulks said he became personally involved earlier this year when he partook in the Vinnies CEO Sleepout.

Heidi, Nikolas and their son, Jake

Heidi, Nikolas and their son, Jake, are now back on their feet. Photo: St Vincent de Paul Society Canberra/Goulburn.

“Particularly in these COVID-19 times, the need is even greater to support organisations such as Vinnies to carry out the work they do with the less privileged and homeless in the community,” he said.

The story of Heidi and Nikolas is a reminder of the turmoil a family can encounter if they do not have essentials such as a home, furniture or clothing. Thanks to contributions received by Canberrans, they’re set for a safe and joyful Christmas this year with their little boy Jake in their new home.

Donations to the Vinnies Christmas Appeal 2021 can be made at Vinnies, by phoning 13 18 12, or at your local Vinnies shop.

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