I want to share the inspiring story of two of our Outback Links volunteers, Michael and Wendy* who have been travelling around their home state of Queensland to support farming families experiencing isolation. Their story sharing of the children who don’t expect much.
They have been a source of hope and encouragement for a number of families this year. As retirees, Michael and Wendy had plans to visit their grandchildren overseas in 2020. COVID-19 saw those plans fall through.
So they asked themselves, “What else can we really do? Where can we go?”
For families living in rural and remote Australia, the added isolation means that Christmas, the one time of the year that they would usually connect with extended family, will be a lonely affair this year.
Fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workers who haven’t seen their families for most of this year might not be able to get home to their children for the Christmas season. Families living in rural towns won’t be able to host relatives from the city in the same way they normally would. After such a tough year, the added heartbreak of not being able to spend time with loved ones will hit hard.
My heart breaks when I think about the heartache that so many families in rural and remote Australian will be feeling this Christmas. We all just want the comfort of loved ones during hard times. After facing bushfires, drought and COVID-19, our farmers need us more than ever. What they need right now is hope.
The generosity of ordinary people like Michael and Wendy always blows me away. They chose to accept their own loss and give back to others who were doing it tough.
During their recent placement, Michael and Wendy were inspired by Mary*, a 73-year-old farmer who has taken on the responsibility of three young children.
When Michael and Wendy arrived to support a very vulnerable family they were not sure what to expect. Their assistance meant Mary could get the support she really needed. One of the children had fallen way behind at school and some of their behaviours were really challenging. Michael and Wendy have made such an impact in a small space of time.
They have enabled a young child to catch up on schoolwork. The emotional needs from these children were so challenging and spending quality time has meant a lot. Michael and Wendy were amazing.
They were able to help the family by walking the children to the bus stop in the morning, sharing and talking through their day. They also spent quality time taking them to the library in the afternoon.
“Spending time with the children and being available to be a listening ear and to hear about all the issues in their lives, just to be there and talking things through, I think it was helpful,” Michael humbly explains.
As ex-schoolteachers the couple were also able to help the children with their studies. When the family bought one of the boys a new computer, Michael told us, “we were able to help them get the internet connected to the house and get the computer set up so that he would be able to use it in his studies.”
Can you imagine the relief it was for these children to be able to catch up on schoolwork, connect with someone, share personal stories and receive the attention that they desperately needed. Just a small amount of help and hope at precisely the right time can significantly change a life.
And it wasn’t just the children who got something out of their presence. Michael explained that the adults, “don’t have much chance for fellowship and friendship so we did what we could while we were there. We really enjoyed that too.”
“It’s lonely, a lot of these people are lonely. They just want someone to talk to.”
It’s why I’m so grateful for people like you who help keep our Outback Links program alive and well. Because of you, we are able to help families across rural and remote Australia who are doing it tough for so many reasons.
In my role as Frontier Services National Programs Manager, I have the privilege of seeing first-hand the difference that our volunteers make when they lend a hand to farmers in need.
Unfortunately, the events of this year means that we’ve heard from countless people who are in need. Your support will allow us to continue standing with people in the bush. Farming families who are facing isolation and loneliness this Christmas have already faced years of drought. But so many farmers are still hoping for rain to ease the burden.
Through it all, we continue to hear from farmers that Frontier Services shows up when nobody else will. Whether it’s our Outback Links volunteers turning up to lend a helping hand or our Bush Chaplains showing up at the gate for a chat, they know that they can rely on us for friendship and compassion.
We need your help to raise $400,000 for vital assistance for our Outback Links and Bush Chaplaincy programs. Your gift today will bring hope to farming families this Christmas.
When we spoke to Michael and Wendy, they told us of the resilience of the farmers they met. Wendy explained, “you can read about people living in the bush and coping with drought but to actually be there and see the dry paddocks, it brings home the reality, what they cope with everyday.”
I count myself lucky to be able to see just how much the Outback Links program means to farmers doing it tough.
Our volunteers do so much more than just fixing fences. They meet farmers where they’re at with compassion and understanding. And a lot of the time they find that the experience is a two-way street. Volunteers often get as much out of the experience as the farmers do.
Together we can show people in the bush that there are people who care. You can help us to keep volunteers like Michael and Wendy on the road to provide much needed assistance and connection for farmers facing tough times.
That’s why we need your help now. Your gift will help us to keep our Outback Links volunteers on the road where they’re needed most.
Michael and Wendy reminded us that it doesn’t take much to bring joy to farming families. Wendy said, “I don’t think the children expect much [at Christmas], you don’t have to do much for them to feel it’s special.” She added, “it’s surprising how little you have to do. Whatever you do is probably appreciated.”
Your gift, no matter how big or small, allows us to help more people like Mary and her children. We want to show up and provide hope and with your help, we can.
It was touching to hear Wendy speak about the way that farming families rely on each other to survive.
“I noticed how close their family unit is. If someone said, ‘Can you help?’ there were no arguments. In the city, kids are not expected to pull their weight so much, but Mary’s children embraced it.”
This Christmas, families across rural and remote Australia will feel the pain of isolation and separation. But if they can see that people like you care and want to bring some hope and joy to their lives, it will make a real difference.
Thank you so much for your support. Your gift means that we can continue to send our volunteers and Bush Chaplains out on the road to bring solace and hope in dark times. As Wendy said, whatever little you give is appreciated.
National Programs Manager
P.S. Christmas can be tough for many families. I hope your Christmas is filled with abundant blessings, joy and peace.