In July last year, Ken and Joyce Dever started a journey around Australia with their caravan. Little did they know that in a few short months, they would be bringing practical care and much-needed respite to an exhausted farmer battling bushfires.
So eager were the couple to get started that within a week of registering as volunteers, they were on their first placement at a station just north of Charleville, in west Queensland. There, they worked with the owners to repair storm damage and looked after their two young children. Joyce said it was a wonderful start.
“When you first meet someone you wonder ‘will we work well together?'” she said. “But we did. And the family told us we’re always welcome back.”
Communities across our Barwon Remote Area in New South Wales have suffered extensive drought. And towards the end of 2019, some faced devastating bushfires.
“Here he was helping others and he’s nearly lost his own house to bushfire.” – Ken
One of our farmers, Glen Dwyer*, was frantically fighting fires north of Armidale and desperately needed someone to look after his animals while he was away. We were so grateful that Ken and Joyce answered our call for help.
Upon arriving, they discovered fire had already swept through part of Glen’s property. Fencing was burned to the ground. Only the wiring remained.
Over the week, Ken and Joyce did fencing work to create a 40-acre paddock, while feeding and watering the cattle and sheep. They described how tough conditions were for farmers in the area.
“Even with all the fencing burnt to ash, the animals never ventured far from water,” Ken said. “The drought’s been that bad. They were too weak to wander.”
Some much needed rest
For most of their placement, Ken and Joyce barely saw Glen. He often left to fight fires after a quick morning cuppa, returning as late as 2am the next day.
We can only imagine how exhausting this was for Glen. Yet he struggled to get enough sleep as he had no curtains to shut out the morning sun. Enter “Angel Joyce”…
“Joyce asked me if I could have one wish, what I would want,” Glen said. “I told her ‘bedroom curtains’ so I could get a little sleep-in, which has been impossible.”
“So guess what? ‘Angel Joyce’ got to working on the sewing machines and I now have some great curtains. I have never slept this long before!”
Since becoming Outback Links volunteers, Ken and Joyce have made new friendships and brought much-needed care to people in the bush.
“It was great making new connections and spending time to understand their way of life,” Joyce said. “We came away from both placements on such a high.”
“We’ve already recommended volunteering to people we know.”
Over the coming months, we will be working with all our Bush Chaplains across Australia to understand where and how we can be of service in their respective Remote Areas. We anticipate mobilising volunteers to help with a variety of projects. If you would like to help, please fill out our volunteer expression of interest form.
*Name has been changed for confidentiality
This article has been adapted from the February 2020 edition of Frontier News.