A helping hand in times of drought

HELPING HAND: Alan and Muriel Hunt with Waza, Dusty and volunteer Len Ravesteyn.
HELPING HAND: Alan and Muriel Hunt with Waza, Dusty and volunteer Len Ravesteyn.

Volunteers from across the country are getting a taste of farming life while helping those struggling with the effects of prolonged drought.

Uniting Church agency Frontier Services has been linking volunteers with drought-affected farmers, including Alan and Muriel Hunt of Cowell.

The Hunts this month welcomed 81-year-old Len Ravesteyn from Adelaide into their home for two weeks to help them with a variety of tasks around the farm.

Muriel Hunt said the couple has not put in a crop in the past two years and have had to sell much of their stock due to dry conditions.

She said they registered for the service when she predicted how bad the conditions would be, and have since had four sets of volunteers visit to assist with hay feeding, fence repairs, re-organising equipment and other jobs that are difficult or time consuming to do alone.

Despite limited previous experience of farming life, Mr Ravesteyn decided to volunteer after reading about the organisation in a newspaper.

"I like to help people and if there's a need and I'm ready and able to do it I will," he said.

He said helping the Hunts gave him a unique opportunity to get a real experience of the country lifestyle.

"I'm interested in country life although I live in the city," he said.

"I'm a farmer at heart."

Mrs Hunt said the volunteers coming through had varied farming experience but were willing to learn, and Mr Ravesteyn had helped in many ways during his stay both practically and socially.

She said while many organisations sent charity in the form of money, fuel or grocery vouchers, sometimes it was also important to have someone to talk to.

"If a farming family has only got themselves... it's too easy to dwell on the bad bits," she said.

"It (the service) means you've got people to talk to."

A seasoned traveller, Mr Ravesteyn said volunteering on a drought affected farm was a new way to see the country, with Alan and Muriel also showing him around the region during his stay.

"I just try to be part of the surroundings... wherever you go you can learn something, even at 81."