By Emily Ferguson

Fresh Hope Engage today launched their annual Winter Appeal, raising funds for those affected by the distress of isolation.

Fresh Hope churches and ministries have been actively present in communities where the force of isolation has been felt most during the coronavirus crisis.

Isolation was already a major problem for many communities and the crisis has only heightened its impact it is already clear that for some people it will have ongoing and potentially devastating results in the days ahead. 

Isolation’s impact on Mental Health

Feelings of loneliness and associated mental health challenges in Australia were already elevated before the coronavirus crisis added physical isolation to our experience.

So, it is not surprising that, as Pastor Jason Hayduk put it, “mental health is impacted quite dramatically” among the homeless people he ministers to through his church, Missionheart, in Canberra.

“The more time people spend in their head alone, the more messed up their thinking gets,” he says. “If they can talk about it, especially in a faith-based relationship, that can be really grounding for their mental health. But the limits placed on those who have been trying to reach out and give opportunities for relationship has meant the confusion gets worse.”

An increase in domestic violence

Incidences of family and domestic violence have been mounting throughout COVID-19 as a result of the requirement to isolate at home – the place that can be most dangerous.

Kingsway Community Care has recently opened the only crisis accommodation in Sydney’s Georges River area, which stands among the top 10 in New South Wales for reported incidences of domestic and family violence.

“Our prayer is that it would be a holistic place for healing, that there’s a sense of shalom peace that comes on them as they’re a part of our family for a season and as they’re restored emotionally, physically and spiritually,” said Brook Stewart, General Manager at Kingsway Community Care.

Stephanie Fett, Family Support Manager at Hope Connect, Telopea, added: “Many families we support have ongoing domestic violence situations, and no face-to-face visits means that as Family Support workers we cannot see what is going on in the household, which makes engagement and service extremely challenging.”

Offering community to the vulnerable

For those who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the requirement to isolate has led to the emergence of practical needs like access to food, the ability to share your story with someone, and physical contact.

“We realised fairly quickly that some of our members couldn’t come to the building because they were immune-compromised or for other reasons,” said Naomi Giles, Ministry Team Leader at NationsHeart in Canberra. “So, we developed a very simple delivery service where those people were asked what groceries they needed for the week and someone from our church community volunteered to be an Uber [driver] for us, taking the order around to bless those people.

“For our food hut we were able to navigate through the changes in a way that meant we could still open the same hours we had opened before so we could keep that connection and provide that familiarity for people.”

To donate to the appeal go to https://missionandministry.freshhope.org.au/project/2020-winter-appeal/