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22 March 2021
Saty (left), with Bryce from the Salvos, on the annual fishing trip to Fraser Island.
The power of friendship and connection
Major Bryce Davies is a Salvation Army officer (pastor) who has worked for many years with marginalised communities in Queensland and New South Wales. In part three of a four-week series, Bryce continues to share the stories and struggles of people he has come across while serving in the often-troubled suburb of Villawood in Greater Western Sydney. This week we hear about Saty – some of the unique challenges he faces and how he is connecting with his community with the support of his friends at the Salvos. Story printed with permission.
Saty left home at 10 years of age and lived on the streets of Calcutta, India. He got whatever work and accommodation he could, including riding a bike with a cart attached to sell fish he had bought from a local market.
Saty ended up working for an Australian company as an office boy and made a connection with a family who invited him to Australia for a better life. This didn’t go as planned, and Saty tells me this family made him work without pay for three years as a domestic slave. He eventually escaped and was granted Australian citizenship in 1998.
For the next 20 years, life was tough. Saty had a variety of challenging jobs and relationships. He experienced horrible violence and, consequently, trauma. For many years, he was addicted to alcohol and drugs.
In October 2018, the Salvos arrived in Villawood and Saty came into contact with people who valued and loved him. He made friends and found hope as the Salvos invited him to help out. The first day we met, Saty helped me assemble a table tennis table and we cooked up some chicken wings in the barbecue smoker. There were maybe four of us at the table that day. Since then, hundreds of meals have been served at the Villawood hub and Saty has often been the cook. His curries are authentic and amazing.
Saty had a small overgrown patch of garden outside his unit in Villawood. One of the first things we did was get some new soil and plant a lovely garden. We even put in a little picket fence.
Over the past 12 months, Saty has helped build many gardens for other residents in the area and has also contributed to an amazing community garden with over 25 plots for everyone to enjoy.
Saty has come camping and fishing regularly with the Salvos crew. He even went to Fraser Island for a one-week 4WD and fishing trip and absolutely loved it. On the way there, we stopped at Coffs Harbour and ended up meeting a guy linked to the Salvos who arranged for us to go out on his boat. We caught heaps of big fish.
Saty has been seeing a psychologist for the past 10 years, and she tells me that the improvement in his mental health, and interest in living a full life, has increased out of sight over the past 12 months. Friendship and a sense of belonging has been so helpful.
Saty wears a Salvos shirt all the time now and is a positive contributor to the community. He laughs more and is on a journey towards sobriety and purposeful living for the first time in decades. He has support through an NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) program and is attending all sorts of appointments to improve his quality of life.
Finding accommodation away from the troubles of Villawood was always a goal for Saty, but recently, when an option came up for him, he knocked it back. He did not want to be too far away from the support and friendship of the Salvos.
Life is still a struggle for Saty, but he is no longer alone, and he is active and growing in significant ways.