In the midst of the latest ‘fat cat’ scandals of insatiable greed and self-serving, ‘big gun’ gluttony I’ve been listening to some hard truths about remotely residing Australians and the hardships that many have to endure to be by the side of a sick or injured loved one receiving treatment in a city hospital.
Incredible stories of women with toddlers sleeping in cars, elderly spouses sleeping in cold waiting rooms and relatives unable to be by the side of gravely ill patient in their final days due to financially falling short of the daunting costs of travel, accommodation and day-to-day temporary living in a city.
Living a stone’s throw away from two major Sydney hospitals, it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live hours away from advanced medical help if a serious accident or life threatening illness cast a shadow over your family. How often would you be able to visit? Where would you stay? How much would the parking fees be? How much would accommodation be? How on earth would an average family afford all of this?
All these questions hit Caroline Meehan hard when she found herself in a devastating medical situation which struck at the heart of her young family. As she struggled to keep her family together and financially afloat, a wonderful idea was born and within weeks she gave life to her charity Heartfelt Homes.
‘Families need to be together in such difficult times, family is the best medicine’.
Heartfelt Homes is a grass-roots Australian charity, providing accommodation for families with a loved one in hospital, far from home. Here’s how it started, why it’s an essential service and how you can get involved.
Meet Heartfelt Homes founder, Caroline Meehan.
Before December 2013 Caroline and her husband Andy were loving life as mum and dad to their two and three-year-olds. Andy worked as a carpenter while Caroline had her hands full as a stay at home mum.
All that came to a screaming halt on 18th December 2013 when Andy was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. Suddenly their carefree days were swapped for long days of 7 hour round trips for tests, scans, appointments and treatment.
Caroline’s concern for Andy was constant – as was her need to be by his side. And she very quickly found out that doing that, being where she had to be – was costly. They needed extra day-care for the kids, petrol and $30 a day hospital parking fees. And when it came to Andy’s surgery, the mounting accommodation costs on top of being separated from her children, almost pushed Caroline to breaking point. The cancer. The financial stress. The worry. And the absolute need to keep the family together was overwhelming.
As she wondered how on earth she was going to get through it all, she started to think about hundreds, possibly thousands, of other Aussie families who find themselves in the same awful situation. And she decided to help them. To do something about it.
And Heartfelt Homes was created.
A ‘home away from home’….when families need it most
Working in partnership with hotels, motels and serviced apartments, Heartfelt Homes can provide families with a short-term room, so they can be together close to the hospital. This means they’re able to support each other and the person undergoing treatment or specialist care. Helping them heal faster and cope better.
We don’t prioritize by age, gender or illness, our sole aim is to help every person in need of somewhere to stay near their sick or injured loved one.
And we want to help every single family, every time.
Togetherness is the best medicine
The thing with family is that when they need to be together, they’ll do whatever it takes to do just that. Tragically for some, the only option they have to be near a loved one in hospital, is to sleep in their car, in a waiting room, travel hours back and forth each day or go into debt to pay for hotels or motels.
This is why our mission is all about keeping families together at a time when they need it most.
Meet Dale from Newcastle, his son was the victim of a hit and run on the Gold Coast
“I would like to thank Heartfelt Homes and their donors for your support. My son had his second operation today after being involved in a bad hit and run, thankfully he is doing ok, although he has lost sight in his left eye and it won’t return. It’s so hard to see my son like this every day but thanks to Caroline for the great work she does at Heartfelt Homes and the donations from you all, I now have one less worry.
The first night here I slept in the car park on the floor as I had nowhere to stay, I didn’t even know where to go to find a place because all I was thinking about was being with my son. I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for helping me at this time. We are hoping to be back in Newcastle in the next day or two, it’s been very hard for me being so far away from home and Caroline has not just helped me with somewhere to stay but also someone to talk to every day. Thank you so much, I will never forget what you have done for me.”
How we are helping families at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
Heartfelt Homes is helping us fill a need for some families whose children come to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead. When hospital accommodation is unavailable, the support Heartfelt Homes (HH) provides is very welcome. In the last few weeks, we have linked eleven families to Heartfelt Homes.
At the time of a medical crisis, new diagnosis or treatment, families need to be able to focus on their child’s needs. They need to be here for their child and sometimes find it difficult to arrange care for their other children.
The hospital provides accommodation for parents of inpatients both on the wards, in our parent’s hostel and in long-stay units. However, we are unable to accommodate siblings or extended family. Ronald McDonald House cannot always assist as the demand on their service is high. In this situation, the provision of short-term accommodation by Heartfelt Homes assists a family through the medical crisis and give them time to make alternative arrangements for the longer term. It also enables families to stay together at a very difficult time.
Another group who could benefit from the assistance of Heartfelt Homes are families of outpatients. Families who need to travel a long distance to the hospital often require accommodation before or after the appointment, or sometimes an outpatient appointment can lead to an unexpected admission and a family, often with siblings who have come along for the day, find themselves having to stay here. Thank you Heartfelt Homes.
We can’t do it without you
Our services are funded entirely by personal and corporate contributions and every dollar goes directly to supporting families just like yours. In our first year, we have provided a place to stay for 32 families with a loved one in hospital, far from home. In year two we have the capacity to help 200 but at any one time, there are hundreds of more families in urgent need of temporary accommodation.
To further assist our families, we have established a fantastic partnership with Uber who generously offer our families $40 credit to help with transport costs to and from the hospital. Thank you, Uber.
If you are looking for a cause to get behind then look no further than this grass-roots charity. It’s highly possible you have experienced the trauma of having a loved one in hospital, you will certainly know someone who has. Maybe a close friend, a colleague or member of staff. Medical emergencies can strike at any time and affect all of us. Imagine the heartbreak and stress of having to leave your loved one alone, isolated in hospital, far from home or sleep in your car or wherever you can just to be near.
Families need to be together in such difficult times, family is the best medicine.
How you can help today
- Donate – Make a tax-deductible and very welcome donation
- Sponsor a room – An incredible opportunity to directly help up to 100 families a year
- Fundraise for Heartfelt Homes – Fundraising is not only a great way to help people in need – it’s also a way of bringing communities together.
About our Sponsorship program
We’ve worked hard to build value into our sponsorship program and absolutely love working with like-minded businesses for the good of our communities. Here’s some of what can offer:
- An official room opening, with press and hospital representatives in attendance
- The unique opportunity to ‘brand’ your room with information about your business
- We’ll also facilitate access to the families you have helped with the opportunity to generate positive PR stories.
There are many more benefits included in our program, read about them here.
What one of our sponsors says about working with us.
“I readily acknowledge our corporate responsibility to give back to the community in which my firm has successfully operated now for over 40 years. Brydens Lawyers is synonymous with helping persons in need and has established itself as the law firm for those without a voice. Brydens Lawyers was honoured to join with Heartfelt Homes to provide assistance in the form of accommodation to families of those in need at Westmead Hospital.
There is no cause more worthy than helping those who need it for no other reason than you can. Brydens Lawyers is committed to giving back to the south-west community of Sydney and by joining Heartfelt Homes has been able to do so in a very tangible way. The accommodation that is now available to families of those in need of medical treatment will assist in relieving some of the pressure that these families are under.
Brydens Lawyers is proud to be part of this great initiative.”
How do I sponsor a room? – We have just 8 rooms left for sponsorship this year, if you would like to help up to 100 families and have your own branded room, please contact founder, Caroline Meehan email@example.com
Heartfelt Heroes raise over $10,000 for Heartfelt Homes
Andy’s 10-hour operation to dissect his neck and remove the cancer left him partially paralysed on his right side. As part of his rehabilitation, he was advised to start cycling so he put a bike on a stand in the garage. He soon became keen to go out around town and it wasn’t long before he announced that we going to set himself the epic challenge of riding from Lennox Head to Sydney to raise money for Heartfelt Homes and support Caroline in her efforts to help as many families as possible.
So Andy and 5 mates trained hard and set off on June 30th 2015, they completed the ride in 7 days and raised a massive $10,506 for Heartfelt Homes. Find out more about Heartfelt Homes by visiting our website where you can also make a fully tax-deductible and very welcome donation.
Caroline Meehan x
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Thank you to Heartfelt Homes Supporters