From Weary to Joyful: Yvonne’s story29 Nov, 2023
Yvonne knows what it is like to feel weary at Christmas time. For years she struggled in financial distress and each Christmas felt like a burden rather than a joy. Then she met Billinda.
The lowest point
In 2018, Yvonne reached her lowest point. Despite working full time, she’d accumulated debt and was struggling to make ends meet. On top of her financial struggles, she was also faced with health challenges.
“Once I got behind in my rent, I knew I was in serious trouble,” she says.
Yvonne tried to secure a better paying job but wasn’t successful. With no other option, she looked into bankruptcy.
“I decided to file for bankruptcy even knowing this would affect my current role,” she says.
“It was really hard for me to realise I needed to go down this route.”
Reaching this point made Yvonne feel like a failure, bringing a deep sense of shame.
“I kept thinking my parents would not be proud of me for getting into so much trouble financially,” she says.
During this time, celebrating Christmas became a burden, rather than a joy for Yvonne.
“It was awful,” says Yvonne.
“I would usually wait until the week before Christmas to see how much money I had left. Sometimes I would get my son a few things leading up to Christmas if I could. If I had to buy anyone else a gift I would cut back on groceries or even put off a bill that was due.”
Yvonne’s financial situation began to change when she was able to receive a disability pension and NDIS support. But after years of struggling with financial distress, Yvonne still needed help to learn how to manage her finances, so her NDIS support coordinator connected her with CAP.
As there was no local church in Yvonne’s community offering Money Mentoring, Billinda – a CAP-trained Money Mentor at a church an hour and a half away – received an email from CAP asking her if she’d be willing to connect with Yvonne.
“I needed to think and pray about it,” says Billinda.
“I had to decide if I could actually do this. Because I had committed to helping out, and I thought there’ll always be a reason not to, I just jumped in and did it.”
Billinda knows what it is like to struggle, and her empathy is part of what drives her to help others.
“When my husband and I were really struggling, we didn’t really have this kind of service [Money Mentoring] to help us out. It was pretty tough for a long time.
“But God was using that to grow us. We grew a lot, and he pulled us out of it to a point where we’re quite comfortable now and I want to give back.
“I want to walk with people who are in need.”
Given the physical distance between Yvonne and Billinda, the women began their Money Mentoring relationship over the phone.
“I was a bit scared about going down this avenue,” says Yvonne.
“I didn’t know what to expect.”
Despite her initial fears, catching up over the phone with Billinda helped Yvonne learn the skills she needs to manage her finances.
“I have felt tremendous support and guidance from Billinda,” says Yvonne.
“We started with the basics of what money I get in and my outgoings. She’s given me tips along the way that I’ve implemented which has made everything so much better.
“She has helped me to put everything into perspective and follow a strict budget. This is what I needed to see the bigger picture.
“At times I have strayed away from my budget, but Billinda has always shown me great kindness, has never been judgmental and she has then guided me back on track.”
A beautiful friendship
Yvonne’s relationship with Billinda has gone beyond looking at her finances. It has also become a treasured friendship for both women.
“Yvonne is a friend – taking calls with her is not a burden but a joy,” says Billinda.
“We are coming up on two years of travelling together and although she appears to have a good handle on her finances now and is in a more comfortable position, I don’t think we will lose contact completely.
“I can see the need to be there in case there is a time Yvonne needs someone to bounce ideas off and it will be nice to watch her progress and see how she goes forward with her skills. I would love to see her grow in her faith also.”
When the two women met in person, it was a joyful meeting.
“It was around Christmas time that first year,” says Billinda.
“There was so much going on, but I wanted to connect. It was so lovely. It helped our relationship and we’ve developed quite a good friendship.”
“I was overjoyed to meet Billinda in person,” says Yvonne.
“Her kindness and unwavering support have been second to none.”
Today, Yvonne is feeling much more confident about managing her financial position and has even been able to go on a holiday – something she couldn’t afford to do for years.
“Today I am in control of my finances and can see a clear road ahead for me,” says Yvonne.
“I am enjoying having budgets to stick to but also having funds to do things with. It is very liberating for me. I am feeling for the first time ever in my life true contentment of where I am at.”
Now that Yvonne is empowered with her finances, she’s also looking forward to the Christmas season.
“This year I’m going to have savings. I’m finally, finally looking ahead.”
This Christmas, you can help bring joy to those feeling weary in financial distress. Your donation today will help equip the Church to walk alongside struggling people like Yvonne, ensuring that no one faces financial distress alone.
Words by Amy Millar, interview by Beth Smith and photography by Aemon Beech.