At just 33 and with three children under five years old, Rachael suddenly found herself with no money and nowhere to go. Originally from the UK, Rachael had no other family in Australia and had to turn to local charities to help with food, clothes and a caravan.
“It was so hard, even when we finally got a house we slept on the floor for a year before I was able to get some furniture.”
Rachael remembers that it was a very confusing time for her and her family but finding Dalwood Spilstead changed everything for the better. Dalwood Spilstead is a unique service offered by the Northern Sydney Local Health District that helps families with young children.
“The Dalwood Spilstead Psychologist helped me to understand what had happened to my family and supported me while I went through the protracted court system after experiencing domestic violence.
“The staff at Dalwood Spilstead encouraged me through some of my darkest days. Most importantly the counsellor believed me! She believed what had happened when I described the domestic violence we had experienced. They walked beside me emotionally as I pieced my life back together and embarked on a new, more certain pathway with my children.
Despite still suffering the post traumatic effects of domestic violence and grieving the loss of her marriage and identity as a wife, Rachael put her three children’s needs ahead of her own.
“When I was told that my youngest son Isaac, was deaf at birth, I searched for answers. Turns out that he was significantly hearing impaired but not deaf. Eventually I found a specialist who did surgery to improve his hearing. I still remember the look on Isaac’s face when he heard his first word more clearly – when he was two years old.”
Although Isaac could hear, he had missed out on developing speech and language skills for the first two years of his life.
“He was unable to communicate his needs in any other way, he would cry for up to four hours at a time. I just didn’t know what to do, it was so distressing for all of us.
Isaac attended the Dalwood Spilstead specialist therapeutic preschool, while Rachael had her counselling. Isaac was later diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. After having intensive speech therapy, emotional regulation therapy with an OT and psychology and physiotherapy at Dalwood, he spoke his first words when he was four years old, which Rachael believes set a much better foundation for his school education.
“Help from Dalwood Spilstead staff made such a difference to my family’s future, especially Isaac and me.
“I want to give back to Dalwood now as I want other parents, to get the help they need to overcome the effects of trauma, and to support children who have an intellectual disability – to give their children the best start in life. I got help from Dalwood Spilstead when I needed it the most and they offered brilliant support for my family. It takes a community to reach out and pull someone out of the darkness and I’m so grateful to Dalwood Spilstead which is why I’ve chosen to fundraise.”
In her latest campaign, Rachael has put out a call for help to raise funds for the much-needed renovation of the Dalwood Spilstead service kitchen and servery areas, which date back to the early 1960s. You can help by donating to the Dalwood Spilstead service today.