by Gary Worrall
AS THE annual Salvation Army Red Shield Appeal ramps up throughout May, the Ipswich Advertiser spoke with Robert Lawrence of Bundamba, who shares how the Salvation Army changed his life.
Arriving in Ipswich in December 2016, Robert was at rock bottom, and credits the Salvos with bringing him back from the brink:
"I grew up in country Victoria, outside Mildura, where I was a keen junior sportsman, representing the region in a number of sports.
"I joined the Navy after Year 12, initially as an electronics technician, then as a marine technician, when I was posted to Iraq on the former HMAS Canberra.
"I left the Navy after eight years, and was working in Newcastle on a number of major projects, but when the GFC hit, there were more than 600 retrenchments, including myself.
"By 2013, my life was a struggle and my marriage was failing.
"I tried counselling, but it wasn't the right fit for my needs. By 2015, we had separated and my wife took my children to the Sunshine Coast.
"With no job, I became homeless, but stayed in Newcastle until late 2016, when I landed a job in Ipswich, starting in January of this year.
"I used the last of my money to buy some presents for my children, and caught a bus to see my children when it was Christmas Day.
"When my wife said it was time for me to go at the end of the day, I managed to get to Ipswich, and found myself in the carpark of the Salvation Army Corps at Bundamba, where a false alarm brought Ben and Emma Johnson down to investigate, where they found me, and invited me to their home.
"I have since started my new job, but it was the support of Ben, Emma and others who organised assistance and accommodation that got me through, and now I go and help out whenever I can.
"These guys gave me a whole new outlook."