Born on a dairy farm in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in 1964, David, a self-described ‘prodigal son’ moved to Australia in 1981. After decades of work in construction and security his life changed dramatically when he found himself without work and without a home. He experienced homelessness for over two years.
“I spent two years on the beach. I did some quiet time thinking…Thinking I was camping, but realised I was without work, without a home, but I knew how to survive. I had a swag bag…one fishing rod, which I used to catch many Australian salmon from off Bondi Beach,” David said.
In those years, David had no real sense of what his future might hold. “I had no idea. All I needed to know was ‘How do I survive? Where do I go now?’” he said.
David used his knowledge of fishing, hunting and survival to help other people experiencing homelessness in the area. He became their cook, using scavenged and donated food to make meals on the BBQ, which he would distribute to make sure everyone would eat.
“You can be homeless, but you can still have a little bit of dignity,” tells David.
Fast forward to today, and David has now graduated with a Certificate II in Cleaning Operations after completing a traineeship with BaptistCare’s HopeEnterprises Employment Training Program (ETP).
HopeEnterprises, launched in 2015, is a social enterprise that seeks to break the cycle of social and financial disadvantage for people with complex needs, who have difficulty entering the workforce.
The program creates a pathway to employment, assisting people who may have experienced long-term unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, addiction, time in gaol, and those living with mental illness.
BaptistCare HopeEnterprises provides traineeships in cleaning services, gardening and lawn services (horticulture), maintenance and repairs, hospitality, accommodation services, and aged care.
Traineeships run for 12 months and offer participants part-time employment with BaptistCare, working at one of the organisation’s facilities.
With ongoing support from a caseworker, trainees receive a nationally recognised Certificate II with successful completion of the course, as well as a Certificate of Attainment in LifeSkills. Beyond the qualification, the trainees also benefit from gaining employment history, experience and references, as well as experience with resume writing, interview skills and assistance with job searching.
It took David regular contact with case workers from a variety of inner-city not for profits before he finally accepted an offer of accommodation at Wesley Edward Eagar Lodge.
“Third time, it was the coldest Winter’s day in Bondi in a lot of years. It was 7 degrees below zero. [In my] jandals, shorts, singlet, and a fishing rod…and they came and said to me ‘Are you ready to come with us David?’ And I went, ‘I’m ready now.’”
From here, David began the work of rebuilding his life. “From the ground up is how I describe it. I have been changed from the inside out,” he shares.
While in the boarding house, David undertook a 10-week cleaning course with a local training provider. They then recommended him for a traineeship with BaptistCare’s HopeEnterprises ETP, and he commenced in February this year.
In practical terms, David’s traineeship has given him a qualification, a regular income, and the ability to secure a place of his own. The biggest impact for him, however, is his growth in confidence and the incredible joy for living that David now has.
“I didn’t ask for a hand out. I asked for a hand up!” David said. “I saw doorways opening… God lets you go through the deserts, the storms, the mountains, the highs and the lows, to get his message across to the prodigal son…you see how it all fits together. You’ve gotta go through it. Just the thought of people wanting to make my life something? It kind of brought a tear to my eye,” tells David.
David now looks forward to his future with hope, and will be offered a permanent role with HopeEnterprises after his graduation in late August. He is confident about his next steps.
“One foot in front of the other, keep moving forward,” he shared.
BaptistCare HopeEnterprises services are led by experienced and suitably qualified professionals, with all staff holding current national police checks, and fully insured by workers compensation and public liabilities insurance. The profits raised from HopeEnterprises’ operations support BaptistCare's services for women's health and wellbeing, with a focus on dealing with domestic violence.
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