From lit­tle things, big things grow

North East res­i­dents re­spond to calls for drought as­sis­tance

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - By RHYLL MCCOR­MACK

THE rain be­gan to drum gen­tly on the roof of the Pur­cell fam­ily home.

Clouds had been gath­er­ing all day, dark and fore­bod­ing, and fi­nally the tinny rat­tle of cor­ru­gated iron was proof the storm was due to break.

Four-year-old Char­lotte Pur­cell is the youngest in her fam­ily; like many coun­try kids her age, she likes the out­doors, baby lambs and Bar­bie dolls.

Un­like many her age, she is acutely aware that Aus­tralian farm­ers are do­ing it tough.

So, with the rain be­gin­ning to pour down out­side her Main­dample home, Char­lotte grabbed her Frozen-in­spired bucket and dashed out­side.

“I’m col­lect­ing rain Mummy,” she called back into the house.

“I’m go­ing to give it to farm kids whose an­i­mals are dy­ing – maybe they can make some grass grow with it.”

Work­ing away in the kitchen, an idea formed in Tanya Pur­cell’s mind.

Why not take her daugh­ters Char­lotte, and nineyear-old Molly, and let them see what was hap­pen­ing in New South Wales?

There is no ex­pe­ri­ence like that learned first-hand.

So, in­spired by her daugh­ter’s kind heart, the Pur­cell fam­ily packed up their camper and headed north – and al­though they didn’t take the bucket of rain, they brought with them hope and com­pas­sion.

“In­stead of do­nat­ing on­line, like we nor­mally do, we de­cided it would be bet­ter for the girls to see first -hand shy we need to help the farm­ers,” Tanya ex­plained.

“If a four-year-old can raid her piggy bank to help, imag­ine what we could all do.

“We need our farm­ers - and right now, our farm­ers need us.”

Trav­el­ling thou­sands of kilo­me­tres, vis­it­ing farm­ers and lo­cal towns, it was the trip of a life­time; tainted with sad­ness at the hard­ships en­dured, but also with faith that, even­tu­ally, the sea­son will break.

Back home again in North East Vic­to­ria, the Pur­cells have col­lected do­na­tions for those they met along the way.

DVDs, pop­corn and lol­lies for a fam­ily who need a movie night.

Skin care, hair treat­ments and a per­fumed can­dle for a mother do­ing it tough. Dog food, flea treat­ments and a pet bed for the farmer whose dogs are worn to the bone.

And hay, lots and lots of hay.

“Be­cause we met fam­i­lies along the way, we have been able to per­son­alise their do­na­tions,” Tanya said.

“We will make a re­turn trip this month, and hand de­liver them – hope­fully, Char­lotte can bring more than just her bucket of rain, maybe it will be the right time for a wet spring.”

The Pur­cells are part of a grow­ing move­ment across the North East, as busi­ness own­ers, pro­duc­ers and the pub­lic unite to help those in need.

From food col­lec­tion dropoffs to char­ity balls, tin rat­tles to dress up days - peo­ple want to help.

In Wan­garatta there was a ball, school fundrais­ers and lots of com­mu­nity groups pitch­ing in.

Out in Ox­ley, chil­dren came dressed in jeans and flan­nelette in hon­our of those liv­ing in the drought – rais­ing more than $500 for their ef­forts.

In the Alpine Shire, and across the state, pubs have jumped on board with Parma for a Farmer, do­nat­ing $1 from ev­ery parmi­giana sold.

This month, tens of thou­sands are ex­pected to be raised with the Buy a Bale Ball - be­ing held in Mans­field on September 22.

Busi­nesses have jumped on board as well – last month, buy­ing fruit and veg­gies in Wool­worths di­verted funds to farm­ers, with the two big su­per­mar­kets also pledg­ing mil­lions to dif­fer­ent drought or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Banks have frozen loans, do­nated and been told - by none other than the Aus­tralian Government - to help where they can.

The call to ac­tion has been wide and var­ied, but there can be no deny­ing that the North East is do­ing what it can to help drought stricken parts of the coun­try – even right down to a lit­tle four year old with a very big heart.

LIT­TLE PEO­PLE, BIG HEARTS: Char­lotte and Molly Pur­cell have al­ready trav­elled thou­sands of kilo­me­tres with their par­ents, vis­it­ing farm­ers in drought af­fected New South Wales. This month they will re­turn, bring­ing with them care pack­ages, stock feed and – most im­por­tantly – hope. The story con­tin­ues on page 8 of this month’s North East and Goul­burn Mur­ray Farmer.

BIG HEART: Char­lotte Pur­cell may be only four, but she col­lected a bucket of rain to do­nate to chil­dren in drought af­fected NSW; in­spir­ing her fam­ily to take a road trip to visit fam­i­lies in need.

DANCE FOR FARM­ERS: (From left) Jan Pass­more, An­thony Pepers, Ken Blake and Linda Preisig helped stage the Drought Re­lief Wan­garatta So­cial Dance last month, with the $1200 raised do­nated to the Chan­nel Nine Farm­ers’ Drought Re­lief Ap­peal.

TEAM EF­FORT: Over 100 stu­dents and teach­ers showed their sup­port for the farm­ers at Ox­ley Pri­mary School.

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