Farmers facing tough choices this Christmas
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ call for a National Prayer Campaign for Drought last month was testament to the ongoing severity of the lack of rain in parts of our beautiful but harsh country.
Their call turned hearts and minds to people suffering in drought-affected areas as we enter the Christmas season.
While the situation remains dire, according to CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society ACT, Barnie Van Wyk, there are many people and organisations like Vinnies working hard to support those doing it tough this Christmas.
Vinnies volunteers are preparing Christmas hampers and gifts for children. And while they will not be able to provide a hamper to everyone in need, they hope that those people they can reach enjoy a hearty meal this Christmas.
“We want to share hampers so families can have a decent Christmas meal and gifts for the kids, otherwise for many it’s going to be a bare situation,” Mr Van Wyk said.
Since their outreach to those suffering in drought areas began in December 2018, Vinnies have distributed about $450,000 to 170 families through their West Wyalong Conference.
Ruth O’Reilly, a volunteer with the Conference, said she was humbled by a lady who came into their office seeking assistance.
“She was very concerned about her financial position as she had to buy large amounts of fodder for her stock,” Ms O’Reilly said. “She gave me quite a large electricity account and asked if Vinnies could help.”
Ms O’Reilly said the woman was overwhelmed when she told her they could assist through their Drought Relief Program. They transferred $2000 into her bank account and gave $1000 in vouchers to pay for fodder.
“Plus we were able to considerably reduce the electricity bill,” Ms O’Reilly added. “She was so grateful. She wrapped her arms around me and didn’t want to let me go.
“I’m an ex-farmer’s wife so I could relate to her situation, having lived through droughts in the 1980s and 90s.
“Even though the lady needed the financial help, the reality that there are people who care gives substance to the Drought Relief Program.”
Mr Van Wyk said Vinnies wanted to look after farmers over Christmas who are facing tough choices between paying school fees, registering their work vehicles or buying fodder for cattle.
“It is impossible for the government, for us, and all the other organisations to put any farmer in a position where they would be if there was no drought,” he said. “So we’re helping just to tide them over so they don’t lose hope.
“We have information days where we will invite farmers to come and access support. We arrange a bit of music and entertainment to get them off the farm, because isolation is a big problem.”
Mr Van Wyk said Aussie farmers were always thinking of others in need.
“That’s the stature of our farmers, and it goes to the core and the values of the farmers we have in Australia.”
Vinnies has streamlined its grant application process and an online form can be completed on the Vinnies website. People are also welcome to visit the West Wyalong Conference.
The online grant application form can be found at: www.vinnies.org.au/droughthelp
Call Vinnies Helpline on 1300 Vinnies or 1300 846 643