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As Mandy Williamson looks back on her life, the impact of one person stands out to her, her chaplain Hannah.
Mandy’s childhood looked very different to her life today. A turbulent time characterised by abuse from her alcoholic father and concern for her depressed mother. Both parents’ drug addictions only added fuel to the flames.
“We didn’t really know the meaning of ‘love’ in our house. We had to ‘earn’ the love, almost as a form of blackmail. There were no random hugs in our house. It was all in return for something we had done,” says Mandy.
“My parents divorced when I was in early high school. From that point, we were in and out of home. We were with Grandma some of the time, and in and out of other homes the rest of the time. We had DOCS [Department of Child Services] constantly at home and constantly at school.”
“I think everything really fell apart for me when I was in grade 7, going into grade 8, because it was left to me to pick up the pieces. I’m the oldest daughter, so I was the one to pick up the pieces for my younger brothers and sisters. I basically became their mum.”
Due to the difficulties facing young Mandy at home, her education and school life suffered.
“I didn’t really ever concentrate at school. I was going to school just for somewhere safe to go.”
Struggling to deal with these weighty burdens and living in a youth shelter, Mandy turned to self-harm in a bid to “end the pain” she was going through.
Chappy Hannah took young Mandy under her wing and began to go out of her way to care for her.
“Hannah never witnessed to me by words, slamming me with the Bible or anything. She just did life with me. When I was going to school and things were falling apart, I could just talk to her. There was a relationship there and I had built up trust in someone who never broke my trust. Looking back on it now, I was quite horrible going through my teenage years and she was just amazing. She did life with me while I needed someone there to back me up.”
“I went through suicidal periods where Hannah was there for me. Whenever I’d go to do it or think about it, she’d just appear and get me the help I needed. If it wasn’t for my chaplain, I honestly wouldn’t be here today.”
Now married with three children, Mandy is currently training in Youth Work and has a desire to become a chaplain in the future, to give back to the Chaplaincy program which changed her life.
“I see chaplaincy as such a big part of our schools and I think it’s very important to have someone there for the students that are going through such a massive breakdown, like I went through, so that they can go to someone, like Hannah, who just wants to journey with them.”
Studying Youth Work has given Mandy a fresh appreciation of all the hard work that Chappy Hannah put into being there for her.
“[When I started studying Youth Work recently,] I felt so sorry for my chaplain because of the anguish I caused her. You don’t see the amount of work that they do until you get into the schools and work alongside them. Chaplaincy is such a big part of our schools and I think it’s very important to have someone there who just wants to journey with the students. The work they do is just awesome.”
Mandy and Hannah have maintained a good relationship over the years. Hannah was even in the bridal party at Mandy’s wedding. It is Hannah’s impact on her life that motivates Mandy to be the same support for others.
Thank you for your ongoing support of SU QLD Chaplains in Queensland schools.
Mandy has been undertaking her youth work training with Scripture Union Queensland – RTO 30548. Certificate IV in Youth Work CHC40413;Diploma of Youth Work CHC50413.
Visit training.suqld.org.au for more information.