Shane believes he has achieved more in the last six months than the rest of his 45 years. Such is the transforming power of friendship and leaving debt behind.
“Five years ago I was a loser,” Shane said. “I used to be a gambler and an alcoholic. I was abusive and was living off debt companies … sometimes I didn’t even pay them.”
Shane lives in Palmerston North. He started working as a bartender, then began gambling and drinking. His gambling problem became a loan problem and, consequently, there was not enough food in the house.
With a family to feed and his young son experiencing on-going seizures, Shane felt suicidal at times. Little support existed for him or his family.
However, a social worker connected him with Christians Against Poverty (CAP). This is a free course which teaches people budgeting skills and supports them as they learn how to make good financial decisions.
While Shane said he had been successful in keeping his business accounts “out of the red”, his personal accounts were a mess. He found it difficult to keep a record of personal spending.
“CAP helped me recognise that you need to treat your own money like it’s a business account; then you have to be accountable for every cent,” he said.
Shane credits the changes in his life to the transforming power of friendships and connections in the community.
Through CAP’s Muffin Mondays, he found people who wanted to help and who he felt trusted him. Muffin Mondays were an opportunity to learn skills from the CAP team, while sharing experiences and support with others in the group.
Before connecting with CAP, Shane had no interest in becoming a “better person.” He said the friendships he made at CAP pushed him to change.
For the first time in my life I have friends … learning what it means to have friends is learning about having people who are concerned for you, who trust you and who honour that trust”.
Through CAP, Shane and his family have also become part of an active local Christian community (Hope Vineyard), which is changing his family’s experience of belonging. They now feel people want to talk to them.
It took four years of hard work for Shane to become debt free. Part of his on-going strategy for improved personal budgeting includes money-saving techniques such as growing his own lettuces and tomatoes.
Hope Vineyard Leader, Lydia Reid, says,
Shane’s garden was developed last year through the Hope Vineyard family and, in particular, by the volunteer work of a homeless Hope member who saw something in Shane worth blessing”.
Shane’s advice for someone going through similar circumstances: “If they are drinking, gambling, smoking, heavily in debt – give it all up and start going to church, because instead of being in the dark, you will have friends.
When you’re drinking, the only person you worried about was your drinking partner. But now I can see a lot more. I see a future, where before I only saw Jim Beam.”
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*Shane’s surname has been withheld to protect his privacy.