“Without Urban Seed, I don't think I would have coped with life or everything I went through.
Urban Seed made me realise not everyone is bad. I can trust people here.
We aren't judged here, we are all in the same boat.”
Debbie is a real-life battler.
Not only has she survived family violence and a car accident that left her with a broken back and shattered knee, her house burned down. Just one of these challenges would push most of us to breaking point. Imagine trying to cope with all this on your own, while raising six children.
Debbie grew up in Norlane, one of the most socially disadvantaged regions in Australia. Life for many people in this northern suburb of Geelong is tough, just as it has been for Debbie.
Raising six children while enduring domestic violence is a major challenge, and Debbie needed support. Through her children’s school, Debbie heard about Urban Seed’s activities that provide food and connection, so she came along with her children.
Debbie quickly found a place to belong. Her Urban Seed community has supported her through the struggles, and now she’s working hard to ensure other people in her neighbourhood get the same support she did.
We hear these sorts of stories regularly from our Urban Seed sites around Victoria: as people in disadvantaged communities experience belonging, love and acceptance, they realise they can tackle their own challenges AND make a difference to their neighbourhoods.
You can be a part of it too. Your donation to Urban Seed keeps our volunteers and programs going in places like Melbourne’s CBD, St Albans in the city’s north-west, Wangaratta, and Norlane, where Debbie lives.
When Debbie started hanging out with the Urban Seed community, her children started attending our Kids’ Club, so she got involved by helping to cook the meals. Learning how to cook and watching her children try new foods and eat vegetables was a big deal for her.
Soon Debbie was bringing many other friends and family from the neighbourhood who needed support too.
But then a car hit Debbie, breaking her back, and shattering her knee.
The impact was unimaginable, and she didn’t know how she was going to cope.
“Trying to manage the kids after the car accident was the hardest part,” she said.
As soon as we heard Debbie’s story, our staff and volunteers jumped immediately into action and engaged the local community, many of whom are experiencing their own struggles, to help her and her children.
“Everyone was supportive and wanted to help. After the accident, people came to visit and would bring us food,” said Debbie. “When you have the need, everyone comes together. This place is so caring – it’s all about the people.”
A donation today will ensure people like Debbie continue to receive support from communities that care.
A few months later Debbie’s house burned down and she and her children were forced to leave the neighbourhood. But being cut off from her supportive community was too much for Debbie, and she soon moved back to a warm welcome and the support she needed to keep going.
And Debbie says it’s made a huge impact on her children
“It has showed them that there is always a place for them. At different times it helped build their confidence up. It helped them realise they are not so different.”
Debbie was so grateful for the support she received from Urban Seed that she wanted to give back, and started to come up with ideas to raise money for our programs.
So we suggested that Debbie enrol in our community development training course called Unearth, which teaches local people leadership skills and how to create projects that respond to local problems.
Recently, she used all her new-found skills to run a community games night to raise money for new kitchen equipment for the Urban Seed site.
“It’s been so wonderful watching Debbie grow into a passionate community leader, and a great friend,” says Urban Seed Team Leader Kaylene Reeves. “She could have let life beat her down, but now she’s taking the love and support she has received, and she’s offering it to others in her community. It shows just how much of a difference we can make together.”
At Urban Seed, we’re not about giving people hand-outs. We’re not even about giving people a hand-up. We’re committed to living life together in difficult and disadvantaged areas, helping people to realise that they’re valued, and that they have what it takes to make a difference in their own neighbourhood – and then doing it with them.
As Debbie herself says:
“If we got more donations we could do a lot more programs. The more we get the more we can make it easier for people in the area. They need support in this neighbourhood, and the more we have the more people can get to be a part of it.”
For more than 20 years Urban Seed has been gathering around food, recreation and creative art to foster a sense of home – especially for those of us experiencing homelessness, addiction, mental illness and isolation. This gathering is the foundation of our unique community development approach, where we seek to draw out the gifts, skills and potential of everyone.
Urban Seed workers are living alongside and supporting people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods across Victoria. People like Michael from Wangaratta, who has journeyed from being homeless to now playing a key role in a community garden, and has enrolled in an agriculture course at TAFE, or people who have been homeless in Melbourne’s CBD who are now helping to advocate for affordable housing with support from Urban Seed. They need support from good friends who will stick around and walk with them through the difficult times.