Imagine if your family was struck by a medical emergency, and you lived a long, long way from a hospital. What you do? Where would you stay? How could you keep your family together?
Just over a year ago, I had a small idea to help families in urgent need of short-term accommodation. This small idea has grown into a registered, not-for-profit charity called Heartfelt Homes.
When I started out, I wasn’t sure of the best way to help people; all I knew is that I wanted to help keep families together. It’s taken me over a year of trial and error to finally get a clear of idea of what Heartfelt Homes is and where we’re heading.
Since its inception in 2013, Heartfelt Homes has changed almost beyond recognition. That’s why now, in October 2014, we’re re-launching, with a clear message, a brand new blog and a regular monthly newsletter to keep our brilliant supporters up to date.
So, what is Heartfelt Homes? Quite simply, Heartfelt Homes finds hotel, motel and B&B rooms for families who are a long way from home, who are either themselves being intensively treated at a hospital, or have a loved one being cared for in hospital.
Our families are faced with the unforeseen. They find themselves in a city that is unfamiliar to them, with a loved one in a hospital; they have nowhere to stay and cannot be accommodated by the hospital.
Just recently we helped a family from Orange. Their baby son needed lifesaving surgery at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. Dad hadn’t worked since his birth, so they were financially struggling, and Ronald McDonald House was full. We managed to find them a place to stay, together, while the baby had surgery.
Heartfelt Homes keeps families together through their toughest time. I understand how important this is, because my own family has experienced illness. My husband Andy was diagnosed with cancer shortly after I set up Heartfelt Homes. Since then, my husband, my two small children and I have learnt first-hand how frightening, emotional and expensive such an experience can be. As we live in rural NSW, we’ve also discovered how essential Heartfelt Homes is.
We had all our usual bills to pay – mortgage, utilities, petrol, food, etc – and nothing coming in. This gave me such an understanding of what it is like to be in this position. All the research I had done over the past year to try to understand what people endured and how they managed could not have prepared me for this.
Along with the intense worry you constantly live with, you also have to figure out where the next mortgage payment is coming from and how you will afford the petrol for the continuing hospital trips – not to mention the cost of parking and childcare. I truly didn’t know how we could pay for it.
Rather than distracting me from Heartfelt Homes, Andy’s illness spurred me on to grow and develop this much-needed charity. However, like every not-for-profit organisation, Heartfelt Homes is totally reliant on the generosity of donors. It depends on kind-hearted people and businesses making financial donations, and hotels, motels and B&Bs offering rooms.
While I’m now able to help many Australian families in need, the funds simply aren’t there to help everyone, and some families are turned away from Heartfelt Homes. This is devastating.
If we can provide a desperate family a room for a few nights, this can relieve some burden and help them heal faster and cope better.
People can help by making a donation at www.heartfelthomes.org.au/donations
To find out more, visit www.heartfelthomes.org.au