A statewide appeal to provide assistance to drought affected farmers and communities is currently being conducted by the St Vincent de Paul Society.
While helping those in need is simply what Vinnies does, the Society’s Drought Appeal will help those through three ways by providing immediate relief through food assistance and other household bill payments.
They will also fund the delivery of water and animal feed by partner organisations and organise social events for rural communities to come together and find support.
Vinnies’ Executive Officer for NSW’s central west and far western region Kelly Morgan looks after half of the state.
In that area there are 19 community groups of Vinnies members (known as Conferences) with a total of 180 members in Parkes, Forbes, Peak Hill, Condobolin, Trundle, Broken Hill, Cobar, Lightning Ridge, Bourke, Narromine, Nyngan, Trangie, Warren, Deniliquin, Hay, Barham and Balranald.
“Farmers though don’t typically walk into a Vinnies Centre for assistance and so while we have members based in those towns to assist, we also have a dedicated rural/drought assistance team who will be providing face to face assistance or phone assistance to farmers in need in all areas across NSW,” Ms Morgan said.
The level of assistance they are able to continue to provide will depend on the level of funds raised, Ms Morgan said.
“We will continue though to partner with other organisations to ensure we keep connected to those in need,” she said.
To help fund the delivery of water and animal feed, the Society is currently in discussions with Rural Aid (Buy a Bale) and Aussie Helpers.
“The drought has obviously increased the needs for assistance. To be able to reach out further and provide higher levels of assistance as required, we need to generate higher levels of funding, hence our Drought Appeal,” Ms Morgan said.
Assistance is on a case by case basis.
The Society are distributors of Energy Accounts Payment Assistance vouchers to help with electricity and other bills.
But it’s not just financial assistance that they will be providing.
“We will talk with farmers about other avenues of assistance and support and be a listening ear,” Ms Morgan said.
Holding the social events for rural communities will also help with farmer’s mental health.
“Such events play an emotional and psychological role in lifting community spirits and bringing communities together in otherwise adverse circumstances,” Ms Morgan said.
“They provide an emotional release - a means to escape for a day. Those going through these extremely difficult times can share stories and know that they are not alone.”
Ms Morgan said it also an opportunity to promote the assistance that Vinnies is able to provide to farmers and hear from them firsthand how we can help.
“Gifts in the way of food hampers or pamper packs, can be handed out to people who wouldn’t put their hand up for assistance,” she said.
“While this won’t pay the piling bills, it can brighten their day somewhat by showing that people care. Donors should contact the Society regarding gifts in kind to ensure we have them dropped off in suitable locations.
“There are many events already being organised across the state by charitable organisations and government bodies. We are aiming to partner with such organisations by contributing further to the events, or initiating them in areas not yet planned.
The Society has been providing rural assistance through periods of drought and non-drought.
“Vinnies is here to provide assistance to people in need regardless of their circumstances. We have always been here to provide assistance to those in rural communities and in recognition of this the Society has had a long standing Rural Assistance Advisory Committee and the Society has dedicated funds to this area on an annual basis,” Ms Morgan said.