When times get tough in the bush, people feel increasingly isolated. Many of our farmers are still battling through relentless drought. The Bureau of Meteorology says it is the worst on record. Nearly every day we hear their struggles to stay on the land, pay their bills and keep their homes.
While some regions have received rain, people living off the land tell me it’s simply not enough for a deep soak. It’s not enough to grow crops. It’s not enough to regenerate grass. And it’s not enough to save their stock. It saddens me to hear how desperate their situations are.
But there is hope. Our farmers tell me that what gets them through is knowing there are people out there for them. People who care and people who are willing to give them a hand up.
Our incredible Outback Links volunteers bring more than just helping hands to farmers in need. They bring much-needed friendship, respite and hope to people in the bush. But to continue our volunteering program for another year, we need to raise $200,000. Can you help us? Your gift today will give struggling farmers the strength to keep going.
“Out here it’s quite remote. It can get lonely at times.”
Fourteen years ago, Bethany Stace moved to live on Wyandra Station with her husband Greg. The farm is located near the New South Wales town of Bingara, which lies 150km north of Tamworth. Having grown up in Sydney, Bethany is acutely aware of the isolation people face in the Outback.
“Being out here, you don’t get to see people very much. It’s quite remote,” Bethany said. “You can feel lonely and isolated, especially when times get tough.”
And times are indeed tough for people in her community. The drought’s hit them hard. They’re running out of water. They’re running out of feed. Farmers have even had to sell their breeding stock. It will take them years to get back on their feet; to start earning an income again. I can only imagine what they’re going through.
Sitting with Bethany in the living room, I start to get a picture of how isolating this drought has been for her and the family. With the daily demands of feeding their animals as well as looking after and home-schooling their five children, it’s hard to get some respite.
Friends and family live far away. When I asked how often they get visitors, she replied usually over Easter and Christmas. But there was something in her voice – a subtle quiver – when she said, “…but it’s not all that often…” that I knew she wished more people would come and visit. It just breaks my heart.
“You can sit down and have a chat…it gives you a mental break from the daily stress.”
Time and again people from the bush tell me how much of a difference it makes to have someone to talk to when they fall on hard times, whether it’s our volunteers on an Outback Links placement or one of our Bush Chaplains dropping in to say ‘hello’.
Bethany’s husband, Greg, said something to me that really captured what these volunteers mean to people in remote Australia. “The volunteers have been great. You can sit down and have a chat over a meal and it gives you a mental break from the daily stress. It’s been difficult with this drought (but) having these volunteers really saves us.”
When we started talking about the volunteers, Bethany’s eyes lit up and a big smile came across her face. I could see that she was excited to have visitors and relished the company. “They’re all great people and I feel we’ve made some great friends.”
I’m so thankful for our volunteers. Not only do they lend a helping hand when it’s needed, volunteers forge new friendships that lift spirits in the Outback. For me, it’s about showing up and showing people you care.
This is why we need your help now. A gift of $30 or $50 will make a real difference to the lives of people in the bush. It will show them that helping hands are never too far away. It will show them that there are people who care.
“Being able to finish those jobs that you never get to takes such a weight off.”
While Bethany and I spoke, our incredible Outback Links volunteers were hard at work repainting the family home. It had been seventeen years since its last coat of fresh paint!
Two years ago, they received a quote of $10,000 but the painter never showed. It’s a familiar tale we hear from our farmers – sometimes the distance is too great for skilled labour to travel. So Bethany was relieved that the job was finally going to get done.
“It’s an amazing feeling, especially when you’re going through something as tough as this drought,” she said. “Just being able to finish those jobs that you never get to takes such a weight off.”
“As farmers you tend to say ‘I’ll be ‘right’ or ‘I can do it myself’ so it can be hard to admit you actually need help. But I’m so glad we took the step to have these wonderful volunteers.”
You can bring practical care to farmers like Bethany and Greg. A gift of $30, $50 or a generous $100 will ensure our Outback Links volunteers are resourced and ready to bring helping hands to people in remote Australia when they’re needed most.
“It gives you that sense of hope, that you can keep going…”
While we were at Wyandra Station, Bethany and Greg had their 14th wedding anniversary. Given the demands on the farm they could have easily let the day pass them by. But luckily one of our volunteers overheard the exciting news and insisted the whole family get dressed for a photo shoot.
For Bethany, Greg and their five children, it was their first professional photography session together as a family. What a delight! That day, so many treasured moments were captured forever on film. Not just of the family together, but of moments with the people who came to lend them a hand.
“Something like this makes you feel you’re not so disconnected,” Bethany said. “It’s the little things that make such a difference. It gives you that sense of hope that you can keep going because there are people who care.”
When times get tough in the bush, people can feel extremely lonely and isolated. But when they realise there are people who care and are willing to give them a hand up, they can find the strength to keep going.
Thank you so much for your support. Your gifts bring much-needed hope to people like Bethany and Greg. It shows them that there are people who care.
Jannine Jackson, National Director
* IMAGES COURTESY OF CUONG LAM – (firstname.lastname@example.org; facebook.com/cuong.lam.986)