Update from the Directors Desk: April 2020

Published 27/4/2020

#lestweforget This year more than ever we have all seen the spirit of Australia and Australians battle to remember those who fought for our freedom and for our way of life during this pandemic. As I stood at the end of my driveway, at dawn on Saturday morning, I was moved to see many others doing just that. Paying tribute to those many thousands of soldiers who lost their lives in battle. I was proud to be a part of that and hope that we have started our own tradition of lighting up our driveways for ANZAC day.

I see no reason why we cannot commemorate our battle with COVID-19 in this way every year as a reminder that nothing can stop us in the face of adversity.

      Drought Angels has always proudly promoted Australian produce and businesses. We will continue to advocate for everyone to buy Australian made wherever possible, to purchase from businesses making goods and providing services in Australia and to also visit our rural towns bringing much needed financial support to these regions. My hope is that well after we have won the war on COVID-19 we will continue to proudly support Australian made and grown products.

      Another 67 food hampers, care packs and emergency hampers have been delivered this week, with an additional $9,300 in prepaid visas posted out to our farming families. It has been challenging to reach people with all the lockdowns and borders closed but we have been using our contacts with other organisations to ensure we still deliver. We have partnered with Meals on Wheels and local churches to reach those who are vulnerable or unable to leave their homes due to COVID-19. It has been a pleasure to receive the messages back about “my hamper magically appearing at my gate” or “thank you for the special treats you packed in our bag”.

      We will not let these fellow Australians be forgotten or feel alone during this pandemic and we would like to thank those who continue to donate as this allows us to purchase the food items needed for our hampers and to provide the financial support our farmers still need as another week passes and still no rain.

      There are reports of dust storms brewing due to hit SA, NSW and QLD at the end of the week. Yet another reminder that the drought has not broken, and our farmers are still battling Mother Nature whilst trying to provide for our country during the pandemic. Please remember our farmers and the part they are playing during this pandemic and wherever possible give thanks and be grateful for this beautiful country that we live in.

      Published 20/4/2020

      I don’t know about you but the speed in which these past few weeks have flown by has been quite mind boggling. Transitioning to a Working from Home (WFH) environment has been exciting, stressful and mentally challenging for everyone. I could not be prouder of our staff who have taken everything thrown at them and as they say, “made lemonade from lemons”.
      We are using MS Teams to keep in touch, to stay engaged and to check up on each other to make sure everyone is OK. If this crisis has taught me anything it’s how important it is to communicate.I will take this opportunity to name drop a few companies who, without their continued connection to Drought Angels, would have seen us struggle during the transition to WFH. Telstra donated $15,000 to us in 2019 to upgrade from our then two mobile phones to a full phone system and that alone has made life much easier. More importantly they provided us with a dedicated business consultant and Joshua Davis has been priceless! Josh is never too busy to answer my questions or to help in any way – Thank You Josh!

      Drought Angels is very fortunate to work with a tech company in Toowoomba to help us navigate the cyber world. Quadtech has been incredible, ensuring our security and connections are always maintained. Craig McFadden and his team are wonderful so a special Thank You to Ann Marie, Lawrence and Jason for helping us smoothly transition to WFH.

      We are still receiving daily phone calls and emails from Primary Producers who are struggling due to the ongoing drought. Many areas received rain in February and those farmers rejoiced as their dams began to fill and moisture returned to the subsoil. Unfortunately, since then, we have received little to no rainfall and with winter being one of our driest seasons, the outlook for those who took a chance and planted a crop is beginning to look bleak. The window of opportunity is closing fast for a good return, so it is these families who are of great concern. They have managed to hold on for so long but with no follow up rain I fear this will be the straw that breaks them.

      Last week Drought Angels saw some record breaking numbers! We provided $91,844 in financial support, delivered 65 COVID-19 Emergency Packs, 73 Food Hampers and 34 Care Packs. With the deliveries being conducted by only two people, instead of a team of volunteers – this is an awesome feat!
      This week we have received a generous donation from Origin Energy for $10,000 to help keep our grocery items stocked. Our planned Rural Day Off (RDO) had to be postponed due to COVID-19 and although these funds were originally intended for this project Origin were more than happy to see it redirected in any way it could help.

      We have also taken delivery of several pallets of toilet paper this week! Quilton have generously provided this much sort after product to be included in our hampers. We have been tasked with the job of getting this out to those in need and that is exactly what we are doing!

      At Drought Angels it is vitally important to us that we stay focused on our core mission of supporting rural farming families during this COVID-19 crisis, just as much as any other time. We will continue providing financial relief, food hampers and phone contact with them all. It is more important than ever before to communicate that we are still here to help and that they are not being forgotten. So, we cannot thank those businesses and individuals who continue to support us during this crisis, it means at Drought Angels we can continue “Supporting our Aussie Farmers”.
      In the words of a farmer:

      “A dollar to you is small change, but to me it’s life changing.”

      Published 13/4/2020

      This past month we have started using terms such as social distancing, flattening the curve and iso (isolation).
      This got me thinking about the last six (6) months of 2019 and what Australia was going through and how Drought Angels was responding. Headlines screamed DAY ZERO and then the worst yet AUSTRALIA ON FIRE.

      Drought was a major headline, with farmers crippling under the heat and a severe lack of rainfall. Many towns from Warwick to Orange and West to Cobar were weeks away from completely running out of water, many other towns had already reached that day. Drought Angels were once again inundated with calls and emails from farmers reaching the brink. Mother Nature was just not letting up and we were worried with Christmas approaching how their mental health would hold them thru this emotional time.

      The Australian population rallied to help us provide handwritten Christmas cards and with the help of some volunteer “Santa Scribes” from Master Plumbers Association, RACQ, students from Fairholme College and other private individuals who just turned up at our warehouse with pen in hand. Within each Christmas Card was a personal message, a $100 prepaid visa and a ray of hope to at least enjoy Christmas. Over 2,500 families received their cards before Christmas. Their responses were phenomenal; they felt loved and not forgotten, they had the strength to carry on. But no one could prepare any of us for what happened next.

      Our bush fire season took off with a vengeance. For months we saw our beautiful country burning (some since September 2019). Cattle, crops – people! All hurting and frightened. Again, the Aussie spirit whipped into a frenzy. Our emergency services battled the front line. Finally, Mother nature bought some relief.

      Water is the life blood of this country and without it there is no life. The farmers getting the rain cried tears of relief – was this really the end of our historic drought? Our Fire Fighters cried tears of exhaustion, it was time for recovery! They’d finally won the battle.

      Little were we to know, that a few weeks later, we would be thrown another challenge, this time an unseen enemy that would impact not just our Aussie farmers but the entire world!

      So, in true Drought Angels spirit we have introduced an Emergency Pack that is being distributed not just to our farmers, but to our older and most vulnerable folk. Our Charity Shop is closed, we are unable to collect donated goods, but we do have a warehouse full of groceries that we need to distribute before they expire. So, although we may have changed our typical delivery method, there is a need out there and we are able to help!

      If you follow our social pages or check out our website www.droughtangels.org.au you can keep up to date on our weekly deliveries. We are conscious of how isolated everyone is and how important information can be. So, if you haven’t already, please go ahead and follow along.

      Published 6th April 2020

      As one of the Directors (handling daily operations), I have been asked to do a weekly post on what is happening behind the scenes at Drought Angels to keep you all up to date. Be sure you stay tuned on our social media platforms for my weekly updates, I hope you enjoy the behind the scenes information.
      In my 4 years as Director at Drought Angels, it has certainly been a unique time, presenting many challenges.

      Has it only been three weeks since we started to implement closures and lockdowns due to the COVID-19 Pandemic?Living and working four hours west of Brisbane, can sometimes put you out of touch with what is going on in the cities. Here in Chinchilla, a small community in the Western Downs of Queensland, we were scoffing at the panic buying and chaotic scenes appearing on the nightly news. It didn’t take long though for our community to jump on the fear train and follow the crowds to our local Woolworths and Drakes supermarkets.

      I went into town last week and faced the harsh new reality of daily life. Plastic protection screens and face masks were order of the day in the chemist and empty shelves in the supermarket. What the heck is going on?

      From a Charity perspective though, working in the disaster space, we can adapt to new processes very quickly. As Directors, we joke that the ideas we have at 2am or in the shower can be acted on throughout the day and delivered by the following morning. We are used to responding proactively to anything mother nature throws at us but this time I admit, we have had to get creative. Gone are our normal avenues of delivery with a lot of our volunteers falling into the most vulnerable risk category and with the borders closed and travel restrictions in place, we must find new ways to distribute our food hampers and care packs.

      With all the current social distancing rules in mind we have adapted as much as possible. At present our incredible farmers are offering to deliver hampers to their neighbours and leave them at the door. Now if that doesn’t give you an idea of how generous and community minded our farmers are, nothing will. We all know it is so important to have face to face contact with our already isolated regional families, but we do not in anyway want to put them at risk, so these “work arounds” for now are necessary.

      Currently, we are working on some emergency hampers to assist vulnerable people in our own community, so watch out for that update next week. Until then, Drought Angels family, stay healthy, stay safe and remember, we are all in this together!