Parkes children raise money for drought affected farmers

Young do-gooders from Central West, NSW have helped in the delivery of 190 hay bales to local drought affected farmers.

Children from Nurture One Victoria Street early learning centre in Parkes raised thousands of dollars through fundraising activities that were used to purchase the hay.

The Parkes children, together with G8 Education early learning centres across the country, held sausage sizzles, farmer dress-up days and more to raise the money, to raise a combined $15,764.70.

​G8 Education matched the fundraising efforts dollar for dollar to bring the total amount raised to $31,529.40.

Rural Aid counsellor Zoe Cox – who services the Bathurst region – was there for the delivery and said the hay offers more than simply a few weeks of feed for the farmer’s stock.

“It inspires hope and it reminds the farmers that they’re not alone and that their fellow Australians care,” she said.

“This was illustrated on the day both in the farmer’s smiles and in their words of appreciation and gratitude.”

Two-semi trailers delivered the hay at Bogan Gate on January 25 that was distributed between 16 local farmers who have been affected by the drought.

“All the farmers who came to pick up their donated hay were very appreciative,” Ms Cox said.

The Parkes youngsters were also there as each farmer received 14 bales of the hay.

“It is so important that our next generation understands not only where their food comes from and the support we can provide by buying Australian grown meat, but also to witness first hand, the impact of the drought on our rural Australian farmers,” Ms Cox said.

Since August, 30, 2018, Rural Aid have donated 1000 truckloads of hay and are currently averaging 90 truckloads of hay a week to farmers.

“We are also in the process of providing hay to every farmer between West Wylong and Parkes and up to Tullamore and the surrounds,” Ms Cox said.

The hay delivery ran incredibly smoothly, Ms Cox said, largely due to the generosity of farmer Andrew Gartner who acted as distributor and loaded the hay on his tractor for all of the farmers.

“All the farmers who came to pick up their donated hay were very appreciative,” she said.

“Andrew’s children put together some crates full of poddy lambs, calves and baby puppies with a sign to say thank you to Rural Aid and G8 Education.”

In Ms Cox’s role, she delivers both phone counselling and face-to-face counselling to farmers.

She can carry out up to 35 counselling sessions with farmers in a week.

“It is not, however, the quantity of calls that matters but the quality with some calls lasting 15 minutes and others lasting an hour and a half,” she said.

The farmers Ms Cox counsel’s have registered with Rural Aid and currently there are 4800 registered farmers, with 3000 of those have received hay from them.

“Three thousand of these have received one-on-one telephone calls or face-to-face visits from our counsellors and $1.2 million worth of gift cards have been donated to these farmers,” she said.

Ms Cox said as the highs of the Christmas period subside, the reality of the drought can often hit harder than ever and this year has been no exception.

“Overall, farmers have an innate resilience that is absolutely commendable, yet the stress, fatigue and financial burden caused by the drought is immense,” she said.

“Farmers I have spoken to over the past month have shared with me the benefit of talking to a mental health professional about their situation, discussing their strengths and exploring what it is that keeps them fighting towards an inevitably unknown future.

“The benefit of Rural Aid’s counselling service is also evident from our end as we witness an increase in the stability of these farmers with the provision of our ongoing support.”

Nurture One Victoria Street Centre Manager Katherine Jones said they wanted to make a difference to local farmers in the region as the drought had severely impacted numerous farms in the community.

Ms Jones said the children and their families had a great time and were excited to be involved in the initiative which they explained to them would help farmers to feed hungry animals affected by the drought.

Rural Aid Australia General Manager Wayne Thomson said the funds would make a massive difference in many farmers’ lives.

“It will provide food for them and their families as well as water for both human and animal consumption; plus fuel for vehicles and of course bales of hay for livestock,” he said.

G8 Education Managing Director Gary Carroll said he was impressed by the commitment of the centre teams, families and children who were determined they could indeed make a difference.

“It’s a wonderful effort on behalf of all the centre teams, families and children,” Mr Carroll said.

“This collaboration of enthusiasm not only epitomises the Australian spirit of generosity and community but also demonstrates how important these early learning centre experiences are in educating our children about matters beyond the early years curriculum.”