“When my head hit the pavement, life as I knew it ended,” says Leslie McGrath. Run down at a crosswalk by an intoxicated taxi driver, this highly educated, successful business woman was now mentally impaired. Feeling worthless, and with little hope for the future, she turned to The Salvation Army for help.
“A police report states I was thrown 30 feet from the scene,” says Leslie. “The results of the impact were devastating. Blackouts, vision and balance problems, extreme fatigue, poor concentration, inadequate response times and loss of memory prevented me from returning to my work, which was restoring and producing rare books.”
Leslie was able to read, but nothing made sense. She couldn’t dial a phone number in the right sequence. She bumped into everything and was forced to establish an environment that was padded. She tripped over cracks in sidewalks. She couldn’t be left alone.
After a period of time doctors informed the 66-year-old she would have to create ways to learn everything all over. She began with the alphabet. “It was like being in kindergarten,” says Leslie.
With hard work and determination Leslie began to understand what she was reading. But, her memory was short. She wanted to save her thoughts on computer and enrolled in a school that would also give her digital upgrading suitable for the print industry.
But, a week after enrolment, Leslie’s teacher was fired. She couldn’t quit as she would have to reimburse the school for the course, and this was impossible on a disability allowance. Leslie endured a year filled with angry staff, timetables that changed without notice, lack of available computers and inadequate teachings. She left the program incompetent and frustrated.
Then, she ran into an old friend who had completed a year at Victoria’s Salvation Army Family Services Computer Lab. The computer literacy training program, established in 2003, is designed around the educational and practical needs of clients. Leslie was quick to enrol.
“The Salvation Army’s daily routine provided stability for me,” says Leslie. “And access to computers for hours on end rebuilt my confidence and skills. The Army made it possible for me to learn any program I was interested in. As a result, I can do anything. Right now I’m making short movies for YouTube.
“Staff at the computer lab became my family,” continues Leslie. “Their respect for me made me feel valued again. And, when you haven’t felt that way in a long time, it means a lot. “