From feeling crushed by financial distress to flourishing: Leo’s story of transformation

6 Jun, 2022

For years Leo had felt ashamed of his financial situation. He is an Australian citizen and has lived here for eight years but his family are overseas in Venezuela. His mother cares for his father who has a disability and elderly grandmother who has dementia. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been unable to run the family restaurant to generate an income. As the only child in the family, the financial burden of providing for them was completely on Leo’s shoulders. But the strain was too much – Leo accumulated debts and struggled to make repayments and cover his expenses.

“Not helping them was not an option,” says Leo. “My salary was going straight away and at the end of the day I didn’t have anything. I felt really hopeless. I thought it was going to be my life forever.” 

The shame of his situation made Leo fear judgement from others, so he kept the burden he felt to himself. Over time, he became isolated and fell into a severe state of depression and anxiety. At his lowest point, Leo wanted to die.

“I just couldn’t wait to die because there was nothing that I was looking forward to,” he says. “It was bad, I couldn’t see anything moving forward. I was just stuck in a hole.”

This is the crushing reality of financial distress.

Thankfully, Leo’s story didn’t end there. He was referred to CAP by a friend who had also been struggling with debts before turning his life around. Finally, Leo found hope.  

“For me it was just the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.  

Leo was connected with Zoe, a CAP-trained staff member at her local church whose role was to support people in financial distress like Leo. It was with Zoe that Leo was able to start the conversation about his financial situation and change his life.

“In that first meeting we went through my finances, and Zoe with her experience was able to provide some guidance,” says Leo. “She was giving me great tips, like ‘if you do this you can save some money here, if you do that you can save some money there.’

“She was very realistic, and she was very honest and supportive. And you can feel sometimes a little bit uncomfortable disclosing information regarding where you spend your money, if you’re going to be judged. And that’s something I really liked when I started talking to Zoe and we went through my finances – she wasn’t judgemental at all in terms of ‘why did you spend your money on this?’ It was actually the opposite.”

Zoe was an incredible support to Leo, helping him work through managing his debts and finding his way out of financial distress. His shame was transformed into confidence and hope for a different future.

“Leo’s changed so much since he has started travelling with CAP and it’s such an encouragement to see the hope that he now has, the future that he’s looking forward to and his happiness return,” says Zoe.  

Leo’s transformation was possible because a local church was ready and equipped to start a conversation about his financial situation and offer practical support. And it’s the generosity of supporters that equips churches in this way, empowering them to help those in financial distress while sharing the love of Jesus.

“I am passionate about seeing the Church be the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them,” says Zoe. “I feel very called to encourage the local church to engage with its wider community and bring a tangible experience of their faith to those around them.” 

Please give a gift today to help start the conversation and remove the shame and stigma of financial distress. You’ll help to transform the lives of those struggling with their financial situations, just like Leo.