HELPING HANDS: Howard and Mary Jones  are just back from volunteering with Outback Links.
HELPING HANDS: Howard and Mary Jones are just back from volunteering with Outback Links.

Leaving Coast home to help out in the bush

RETIRED Central Coast couples are among volunteers heading out to the Australian bush to lend a helping hand to farmers struggling in severe drought conditions.

The volunteers, including Iain and Ann McLeod, of Ettalong Beach, and Berkeley Vale's Howard and Mary Jones have been leaving their comfortable coastal homes to help those struggling in the drought.

Frontier Services, one of Australia's oldest bush charities, runs two programs - Bush Chaplaincy and Outback Links.

The Bush Chaplains travel tens of thousands of kilometres each year visiting individuals and families on remote properties for coffee and a chat. They are often the frontline for identifying issues and referring people to other service providers.

Meanwhile, Outback Links connects skilled volunteers with people in remote Australia who could use a helping hand.

These volunteers donate their skills throughout the year doing repairs and maintenance on equipment, the home and around the property - free of charge.

This is the program that the Central Coast retirees have taken part in, with both couples believing it to be an enriching experience.

"It has enriched our lives, broadened our horizons and we have developed lifelong friendships with people in the bush for which we are forever grateful," Ms Jones said.

"Our experiences have provided us with both an insight into country life where no two days are the same," Mr McLeod

added.

"Absolutely wonderful people, it's an amazingly vast land, albeit very dry in this drought, but their human spirit, hope and optimism is admirable in these tough times."

Helping out doesn't just meaning volunteering, according to Frontier Services national director Jannine Jackson.

In support of their fundraising activities, Ms Jackson called on Central Coasters to buy Aussie produce and host a Great Outback BBQ.

She said all funds raised would go towards supporting Frontier Services' volunteer programs, which provided practical and pastoral support to farmers across Australia suffering from severe financial strain, physical and emotional stress and social isolation while dealing with the fallout of a relentless period of droughts, floods and fires.

"This year delivered the hottest January-to-May period in Australia's recorded weather history - and one of the driest," Ms Jackson said.

"The price of stock feed and transport is spiralling, bottled water is being shipped into towns and for the first time in over a decade, Australia has had to import wheat after drought across the eastern states saw grain production fall 20 per cent.

"Our farmers have endured so much for so long. But what's getting them through is knowing that there are people who care and people who are willing to give them a hand up.

"In this year's Great Aussie BBQ campaign, our goal is to raise $200,000 so we can send more Bush Chaplains and Outback Links volunteers to people in remote Australia that need it the most."

Anyone can host a Great Outback BBQ by registering - go to greatoutbackbbq. com.au or phone 1300 787 247.

Those committed to raising $500 or more will receive a premium welcome kit including a barbecue starter pack and branded apron.

To find out how to support Frontier Services, go to frontierservices.org.


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