Finding Purpose and a Pathway Forward
30 May 2023 Hits:0
WHEN Gladys Lim first arrived in Australia from Singapore almost four decades ago she had never felt more alone.
“I didn’t know anybody,” Ms Lim said. “There was not a single person in my life who I could call a friend.”
Aged just 33, the Chinese-born Singaporean found herself in an unhappy relationship and was unable to work or socialise.
“I remember my son told me one day I hadn’t spoken to anybody for over a year,” Ms Lim said.
“I think I was trying to protect myself. “When you are unhappy and you don’t know anybody or where to turn, I guess that is what can happen.”
In more recent years, Ms Lim said she had discovered how maintaining a small network of friends was key to ensuring her life had purpose.
Ms Lim is a regular at the free weekly meals offered through community program Matt’s Place at the Melbourne bayside suburbs of Cheltenham and Chelsea.
The initiative was first established by the Kingston Interchurch Council after a local need was identified. It is now managed by Bayside Community Care, the benevolent arm of Melbourne’s Bayside Church.
General manager Sandra Cavallo said the service provided an opportunity for people to come together.
“I think we can sometimes underestimate the value of social connection,” she said.
“Matt’s Place is more than somewhere to come for a free meal.
“It’s a welcoming environment where people of all circumstances can meet and mingle.
“At a time when social isolation is a real issue across our communities, granting people a chance to come together has never been more important.”
Last year Matt’s Place volunteers served up 17,000 meals to more than 6200 people in need.
A food bank also provides weekly staples so clients never leave empty-handed.
Ms Lim said the service had been a tangible support for her when she needed it most.
“I speak up more these days,” Ms Lim said.
“I have learned that people are not mind readers and you have to verbalise the things you need.
“Of course, that can take time.
“But services like Matt’s Place provide a space where you know somebody will be there to listen.
“If I feel bad, I will tell people. If I need support, I will ask for it.
“That’s something I have finally learned to do.
“I come here for the free meal which is fabulous but then I like talking with my friends.”
Ms Lim said she always reserved at least two seats at a table each week for the people whose friendships she valued most.
“Every week, I find another reason to smile,” she said.
“I didn’t come here expecting to make such fabulous friendships – but it is something for which I am deeply grateful.”