One of the things that COVID taught us in 2020 was that anyone, regardless of their financial or employment status, is only one or two major life events away from disaster. This unprecedented global pandemic changed the way life was lived for much of last year and into 2021.

For many, this disaster triggered a partial or complete loss of income, job security, and in some cases, a place to live or food on the table. Whilst many were supported by government, there were also many who fell through the cracks and managed to find their way to The Salvation Army.

While you would expect that the majority of those reaching out to the Salvos would be the most vulnerable and marginalised in society, in fact there were more and more people knocking on the Salvo’s door for the first time. Some had even donated to us in the past, but now found themselves on the receiving end of a food hamper or assistance to pay their rent.

COVID-19 has highlighted, and allowed us to reflect on, just how many people live on the brink of a personal disaster, or indeed may be currently experiencing one. It is often the most hidden forms of poverty and suffering that are the most damaging. People asking for help often think no one understands what they’re going through. Feelings of shame and embarrassment are common when people first begin to consider reaching out for support.

Life’s challenges are often closer than we think. A mate who sleeps on his friend’s couch, or a colleague facing a choice between essential medical care or keeping their family housed and fed; this is the reality that many Australians face. We must stay alert and responsive to help people who are unable to come to terms with their circumstances or ask for help in their darkest moment.

One thing that we can do as an Australian society is remove the stigma of reaching out for help. At the Salvos there is absolutely no need to feel ashamed in asking for a hand when you are doing it tough. If you or someone you know is struggling and in need of support, please reach out to the Salvos at salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS. We are here for everyone in Australia, and we are here to help.

The Salvos need to continue this vital work into the future, and each year we are astounded by the generosity of the Australian public. One of the greatest attributes of Australians is the ability to come together in times of hardship to support our fellow Aussies in need. If you are able, please consider donating to The Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal throughout May and June, which is so important in enabling over 2000 services across the country to continue this work for people doing it tough.

If COVID-19 has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that we need to look out for our mates in their time of need. On behalf of The Salvos, look out for each other, be united in times of hardship, and don’t be ashamed to reach out for help.

To receive help from or donate to the Salvos visit salvationarmy.org.au or call 13 SALVOS (13 72 58).

Major Bruce Harmer, The Salvation Army Australia national public relations secretary.