This post is to announce that unfortunately Stephanie Calabornes will not be able to continue her Protests due to ill health brought on in part by the intensity of her activities and in part by the additional level of stress induced by the Salvation Army’s heavy-handed behaviour that has had a detrimental effect on her stress levels (and therefore health) as well.
Stephanie withstood several attempts to stray her from her course, including threats of being sued, personal slurs on her name, and the police being called on two occasions, which, although patently ridiculous, were nevertheless highly stressful. She took these in her stride, and saw these efforts for what they were – attempts to muzzle her voice and stop her speaking out about problems in the Salvation Army. When the police were unnecessarily called because the Salvation Army didn’t like one of her placards (see previous posting: Sydney Salvos Protest: Salvos Object to Protest Placard, Call Police), she even resolved to protest longer than originally planned, because she wanted to show the Salvation Army that this sort of tactic simply wasn’t going to work.
When I called Stephanie the other night, however, the strain and exhaustion in her voice were evident. Stephanie is one of the proudest people I know, and she is, from what I’ve learned in the short time I’ve known her, not the sort of person who feels comfortable talking about things that are causing her problems in her own life. She spends most of her time standing up for other people or speaking out about injustice, and tends to minimise her own difficulties. It was only the other night that I learned that Stephanie has chronic lymphatic leukaemia, amongst other health complaints. I’d known she had a difficult childhood, including time in an orphanage, and that she had been assaulted at a Salvation Army centre as an adult, but not the full extent of the traumas she’s endured throughout her life, or her health issues. I had enormous respect for Stephanie already, but now have an even greater level of respect for her in pushing on for as long as she did, and for speaking out on the issues that matter despite it all.
Naturally, Stephanie was incredibly disappointed about not being in a position to continue with her protest (it took a good couple of hours to convince her it was okay to stop and that she wasn’t letting anyone down if she did!!), but I’m grateful that she put herself first in this case. I’m not sure she believed me when I said that she’d already achieved an incredible amount in the time she was protesting, but I hope she will, in time, come to see just how much she achieved in the 12 days she was able to maintain her protest.
Here are just some of the things that Stephanie achieved:
- Stephanie (and the wonderful people who came to join her on various days) handed out an estimated 3,500 leaflets, thus expanding dramatically the number of people who will now hopefully go to the White Shield Appeal campaign (whiteshieldappeal.org) website to learn more about aspects of the Salvation Army that the organisation would prefer that people not think about.
- Even people who did not take a leaflet saw the protest signs and came away with an understanding that there are people who have serious issues with the Salvation Army and these people will hopefully do some research of their own to learn more about problems in the Salvation Army.
- Several members of the public who were not at all familiar with problems within the Salvation Army stopped to talk to Stephanie to find out more about why she was protesting, and will now hopefully go away and talk to friends, family, and work colleagues, etc., about what they were told and thus spread the message that all is not good with the Salvation Army.
- Several people stopped to talk to Stephanie to tell her about problems they too had experienced in their dealings with the Salvation Army (including several who provided further confirmation of the things Stephanie was saying), and many of these people have now gotten in touch asking what they can do to assist with future protests or actions or simply to speak about other problems of which I was not aware.
- The Salvation Army conceded part-way through the protest that it needed to look into the matters raised in two new petitions on the White Shield Appeal campaign website (whiteshieldappeal.org) – plaques on girls’ homes and not wearing triggering uniforms near people abused by Salvation Army members (including at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse). I very much doubt that without the high level of attention on the organisation during Stephanie’s protest there would have been even the small concessions that have occurred (please check back on this petitions for updates on these petitions).
- Stephanie engaged in conversations with a few members of the Salvation Army who, it is hoped, have come away with a greater appreciation of the concerns of the community and (hopefully) attempt to get others in the organisation to see that things need to be done differently.
- Stephanie engaged in conversations with several people who, although not members of the Salvation Army, support it, but need to know that there are people the Salvation Army has harmed and who are still being treated badly. Again, it is hoped that these people will also do something to attempt to bring about change within the Salvation Army, perhaps by Tell the Salvation Army senior members and expressing themselves.
This post is to thank Stephanie for the incredible work that she has done over the last fortnight, under extremely taxing conditions. It is also to thank the wonderful people who joined Stephanie at various times throughout her protest and to all of the people who promoted or talked about the protest on Twitter and facebook and through emails. It is also to thank the wonderful people who emailed or phoned through to say how much they appreciated what Stephanie was doing.
The job for now is to build on Stephanie’s efforts to keep the ball rolling. I and others who have offered to help will now turn our attention to this. The White Shield Appeal campaign website is now reasonably sufficiently established to provide a platform for people who have concerns about the Salvation Army to do things such as:
- Have a central platform to promote petitions demanding changes (we will help you by promoting your petition as widely as we can);
- Have a central platform to promote future protests against the Salvation Army (we will help you by promoting your planned protests to the media and on social media); and
- Have a way of showing others how even relatively low-involvement actions (‘acts of resistance’) such as (e.g.) sticking up posters on community noticeboards asking people to (e.g.) go and look at the White Shield Appeal campaign website can be powerful tools for raising awareness in the community of problems with the Salvation Army.
Over coming weeks, I’ll be getting in touch with all who have contacted me throughout Stephanie’s protest and seeing what we can do to help in various ways, and not just in the ways listed above. If you haven’t already contacted me and want to be kept updated by email about things like planned protests, new petitions, etc., please get in touch via the Contact page on this site to let me know you want to be kept in the loop, and I’ll add you to my mailing list. More importantly, if you have been inspired by Stephanie’s protest, and want to take some form of action of your own (e.g., start a petition, mount a protest, etc.), and want a hand with ideas or anything else, please also get in touch.
As I said to Stephanie last night when she was expressing her distress that this would be the end of things, “Don’t think of this as the end; it’s only the beginning.”