This time of year should be full of joy for all, and this year Annie is counting herself so blessed to be able to relish in the festive season as she prepares her young family for the second time ever that they can decorate their own Christmas tree in safety and surrounded by love.
Annie shared her story of finding sanctuary after years trapped in a dangerous relationship in My Weekly Preview last November. Twelve months on, she is happy and achieving her goals.
“My life has changed completely,” she says. “I am so happy. I have my driving licence and I go everywhere now; the beach, church. I’m even learning how to swim now and used to be scared of it. I am nearly finished my studies and can soon get a job and get our own rental home. We have come so far.
“I love Christmas because it’s a happy time for me now and it will be a celebration for a year that we are so proud of. The kids and I love doing the tree and they are going to bring home their handmade decorations from school, they are so excited.”
After Annie’s story was published last year, she was surprised to be called inspirational by many in the community.
“I am amazed that I am considered so special. I had never been told that I am amazing, until I met SunnyKids.
“I never felt like I belonged, I felt useless. Now I feel like I belong. I have people. I love hearing that I am special because I actually believe it now too. I am special,” Annie says.
“I feel so happy to be able to help others now that I am in such a happy place. I want everyone to know that if your life seems so terrible right now, there are people who can help and it is possible to escape and be free and happy,” she says.
With Annie’s children now 10, 7, 6 and nearly three, the last 12 months has seen incredible improvement in the children’s behaviour now that they’re living in a loving family environment and have been working with a psychologist.
“The kids’ behaviour is wonderful; they make me so proud. My son used to have violent outbursts, a trait he learned from his father, but thanks to the psychologist that SunnyKids connected us to, he has learned so much and now I know he is going to become an amazing man.
“I want to educate my daughters and my sons to know respect and happiness. I want to raise strong daughters and honourable sons,” Annie says.
While 2020 has been a difficult year for many, Annie also faced a few challenges but happily shares that with some final court actions now complete, she has been able to close out the awful chapter in her life with the support of her SunnyKids case worker.
“Now that I’m at this point, I can’t help but think how long I stayed in that awful situation that almost took my life. It will never happen to me again. Now that I know how good life can be, I want others to know it too and to reach out for help because it is there,” explains Annie.
“It is hard on your own, but it is possible with help. SunnyKids showed me how to actually make changes and get out, and that I can create a better future.
“Always for the rest of my life, all my family for generations to come will know that SunnyKids opened doors for me and my children.”
A major part of the SunnyKids philosophy is connecting people with the community so they feel they belong and have people they can turn to.
For Annie, this year has very much been a strengthening of connection to community as well as her family. After years of being separated from her mother and sisters, Annie can now visit them any time she wants and is making happy family memories with her children.
“I can now be there for my mum like she was there for me when I was little. I have a stronger connection with my sisters, and we talk all the time,” she says.
“This Christmas we will all get together for a big lunch and we are hoping to bring back some traditions of our culture.
“I used to dance as a child for our cultural celebrations. I hadn’t danced for a very long time but now when I see my sisters we dance, and we dress up together, and now my daughters are joining in too.
“I think being able to dance is the most freeing thing, and now, I can dance.”
To support SunnyKids to help more families like Annie’s please donate to the Sunny Xmas for Kids appeal at sunnykids.org.au.
Jackson* had just celebrated his sixth birthday when his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and not long after the diagnosis, Jackson’s mother sadly passed away. Jackson’s school teachers noticed that Jackson was coming to school with little to no food, unwashed uniforms and an unkempt appearance. Jackson, who was usually a bright and enthusiastic student, became withdrawn and struggled to complete even the simplest of tasks. SunnyKids began working with Jackson and his family to find out the areas they could support the family with. Jackson’s dad had always been the provider for the family and was struggling to cope with the passing of his wife, maintain his employment and run the household while trying to juggle everything all at once.
SunnyKids helped Jackson’s dad link in with an in-home cleaner. Jackson and his two older sisters started therapeutic support and the children were enrolled into before- and after-school care. Jackson’s teachers noticed a significant change and happily reported that Jackson quickly returned to his usual bright self at school.
Although this family will need time to heal, just knowing that someone out there cares for them and will be at the other end of a phone call can make a world of difference.
Sometimes what we see on the surface isn’t always what’s real.
*Names changed to protect privacy
Business donations brings smiles to kids
The Sunshine Coast charity SunnyKids provides thousands of nights of emergency accommodation, as well as counselling, domestic violence support, mentoring programs and more to vulnerable children, young people and their families each year.
This year, SunnyKids is calling on local community members to assist in making Christmas a little brighter for at-risk children across the coast, with the organisation compiling gifts for children who may otherwise not have anything to unwrap on Christmas morning.
SunnyKids general manager Kathleen Hope says with many of the families SunnyKids assists having experienced homelessness, economic hardship or domestic violence, it was understandably not always possible for parents to fund a gift for their child.
Ms Hope says it was apparent the giving spirit was already alive and well, with Buderim-based dredging and civil construction business Hall Contracting having donated more than $5000 worth of gifts to the cause this week.
Hall Contracting CEO Cameron Hall says the team is thrilled to be getting behind SunnyKids and bringing smiles to the faces of local children.
“We’re incredibly proud to be a long-term supporter of SunnyKids, which delivers a range of essential services within our community.
“If there are any other local businesses or residents looking to spread some Christmas cheer over the coming weeks, I encourage them to get behind this fantastic charity.”
To donate to the charity’s Christmas donation drive, please deliver unwrapped gifts to 49 Price Street, Nambour by Friday December 11 (please phone 07 5479 0394 first to ensure staff are on site). Alternatively, visit donate2sunnykids.raisely.com to donate funds.
Important things to note
- Please do not wrap gifts. This will allow SunnyKids to direct each one to the most appropriate recipient.
- Please only donate new items.
- Please do not donate toy weapons or items that promote violence of any kind. Many of the children SunnyKids assists have experienced domestic violence and may find these items distressing.
Struggling for ideas? The following gifts would be gratefully received:
Toys and books
- Picture books and novels
- Lego, Meccano, Mega Blocks
- Art, craft and science kits
- Musical instruments
- Puzzles and board games
- Sporting equipment e.g. balls, cricket set
- Skateboards, scooters and helmets
- Body boards
- Gym equipment
- Beach towels
- Jewellery and hair clips
- Nail polish and nail art kits
- Handbags, backpacks and wallets
- Portable Bluetooth speakers
- MP3 players
- Hair straighteners
- Cinema gift cards
- Sporting store gift cards
- Clothing store gift cards
- Experience gift cards e.g. Aqua Park
Please do NOT donate
- Toy swords, guns and water pistols
- War toys e.g. soldiers and tanks
- Combat-focused action figures
- Violent video games
- Anything that endorses violence or aggression.