Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Child's View

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson is the founder of Craig's Table, and created the “Bags of Love” emergency food project providing basic need resources (food) to families of injured workers in Australia. She is also instrumental in Work Injured Resource Connection Inc.

Rosemary got involved in workers' compensation many years ago after going through her own work injury ordeal. On that journey she discovered many shortcomings of workers' compensation - principally the destruction of dignity and self-respect that the system foists on the unfortunate.

So she decided to do something about it. She is not a lawyer, doctor or claims professional. She's just someone who deeply understands what happens to people living paycheck to paycheck when that paycheck is suddenly interrupted by a work injury.

I've never met Rosemary personally, but we have many common friends in the world of workers' compensation so we do correspond, and I've written about her in the past. 

What she does seems simple, but is difficult to execute for there are many formidable obstacles, not the least of which is the injured worker whose pride and disbelief discredit the reality of stark circumstances.

The other day Rosemary posted a vignette about one of her experiences at WIRC in response to a LinkedIn topic.

It moved me.

Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson

So with her permission I am republishing it here with editing to soften the Australian accent and clean up typos, etc.


At the Centre I run here in Adelaide South Australia we see the real cost of workers compensation, a cost that has no dollar value. 

We see the human cost. And it is not always the injured worker who pays the highest of these costs.

Every time an injured workers needs a food hamper, it is not just the food that they need. They need the love and the empathy and the hope that is also packed with it.

The children need the treats that are magically slipped in to the hampers so that the children will know that life can have fun in it.

Imagine a child, a tiny little girl, her name is Ruby. She is not old enough to go to school.

Ruby's Mummy had major surgery due to her workplace injury.

No home help was offered as "family" lived close enough to help.

Money was tight but because Ruby's Mummy could stand for only so long to cook, she was ordering home delivery pizza to make sure that Ruby had something to eat.

Then the money ran out and she didn't have the ability to buy real food, so Ruby and her Mummy were back to eating what ever was left in the pantry.

The cost of living takes up the majority of the income; quality food has become a luxury item.

Now imagine it is almost 3 pm in the afternoon and Ruby's Mummy is sitting in front of you and telling you this story. The close-by family has long been estranged for reasons I don't care to explain here. 

No one has been to help.

With the help of Ruby we pack enough food for the little family; quality home made frozen meals as well as fresh bread and milk and yoghurts, enough to fill the perishable capacity.

Then we turn to the non-perishable products - tins of fruit, tins of soup, tins of fish -sugar tea coffee; all the while Ruby is chatting away telling us that she is a big girl and that one day when she can she is going to buy a food shop so that Mummy won't cry anymore.

I hand Ruby a packet of instant porridge, Ruby hugged it to her as if I had just handed her something so precious that she didn't dare drop it.

"Mummy," Ruby said, "when we get home can we have porridge for breakfast?"

It was 3 pm, long past breakfast time, but this precious little girl had not eaten since the night before because there was nothing left in the pantry to eat.

Ruby didn't just break my heart, but shattered it into millions of pieces.

I have to admit it is the one and only time I have ever picked up a child of an injured worker and cried because of the depth of pain I was in for her.

Little Ruby dried my tears.

So the next time you hear about workers compensation costs being cut and the support of injured workers being removed, take a few moments to imagine Ruby. I can tell you from experience there are millions of children such as Ruby - they are the unseen, the uncounted, the unacknowledged component of workers compensation.

These are the children who go to school without breakfast. They most likely don't have anything to eat through the day either.

Because they are hungry they are not going to be able to concentrate or study as others in their class; if they are boys they will became disruptive or totally withdraw from the school work as they will not see any hope for their own future.

To the very best of my knowledge the "Bags of Love" emergency food project that I started is the only one of its kind in the world.

We struggle to keep the power on because we have no funding to cover the costs we incur, but we also know that should the day come when the costs of running the Centre is greater than our ability to pay that is the day that far more injured workers will be failed than I care to imagine.

No you won't hear any of this at a workers compensation conference but it is time that you did hear it.

It is time to remember that injured workers are not computer generated numbers, they are people, they have families, they have a community and they have something else, they have a work ethic.


Contact details for the Centre and Rosemary:
118 Sampson Road
Elizabeth Grove
South Australia 5112
Phone number 61 08 8255 9138

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