With the lack of rain, drought relief action has become a top priority for the Rotary Club of Pambula.
Last year, the club joined a Rotary call to action to get involved in drought relief initiatives and made a wonderful connection with the town of Trundle in Western NSW (near Parkes).
"We reached out to Trundle because it's a town very similar in size to our own town of Pambula," project coordinator Liz Bellette Stubbs said.
"But boy are they doing it tough! Water is so scarce, the school has installed washing machines and showers to make sure kids from drought affected properties have access to basic amenities we all take for granted."
As a follow on from an initial visit last November, a team from the Rotary Club of Pambula recently headed over to revisit the town with a few Merimbula Rotarians also joining the action. This visit involved something for everyone, kicking off with a visit to the child care centre and local schools to deliver donated books and a full day working bee at Trundle Central School to freshen up one of their classrooms with a lick of paint and to plant out some new garden beds and brighten up the playground.
On Friday night, Andy from Merimbula Rotary was DJ for a karaoke night at the Trundle Pub, which gave everyone a great opportunity to share a song and a laugh with the locals.
Then on Saturday night, the team hosted a family movie night at the historic and very grand Memorial Hall - where everyone dressed up as favourite movie characters and tucked in to a wonderful supper including slices and goodies provided by students at Lumen Christi High School.
This year, a contingent branched out and took a trip North to Tullamore, where the impact of the drought is hitting even harder. They met with shire councillors and representatives from the school and health service to share ideas about how Rotary can help.
"One of the things we've done is secured a grant to establish a Youth Sports & Arts fund similar to the one we've got locally. This funding will be available for the youth of Trundle and Tullamore to help young people access trips away for sports and arts they excel in." explained Rotarian Colin Dunn.
"We also helped sponsor their annual golf tournament that was happening the weekend of our visit, which of course Daryl Dobson and I played in. It was a very moving moment at the end of the day when the golf club president shared with us, with her eyes brimming with tears, that it was the first time in the tournament's history that they could host a presentation ceremony as part of the event thanks to our sponsorship. It was great to be a part of it," Colin said.
The trip involved a visit to a local sheep farm to see first hand how the drought is impacting. In true country spirit, the key message from the farmer was that "there were people doing it tougher".
While farmers are certainly finding it hard, he acknowledged that there had been a fair bit of assistance channelled to farmers, and he felt for the businesses in town that weren't eligible for funding assistance or low interest loans.
Helping the local businesses was a big focus of the visit. The Rotary Club of Pambula sponsored 'pamper sessions' at two local salons which were fully booked by local women.
"When the money is short, the last thing people spend it on is the luxury of a hair cut or pamper session, but these are the little things that can make a difference to people," explained Liz.
"We really wanted to give the hard working women of Trundle a treat, and get some money flowing to the businesses in town that are finding it really hard to survive at the moment."
The Rotary team spread themselves across four different accommodation providers, and visited different café's and restaurants each day to maximise the benefits to different businesses.
"This is actually one of the most effective ways we can all help our drought affected towns" said club member Lynne Koerbin.
"If you want to help, visit the little towns, stay in their hotels, eat in their café's and clubs, buy fuel from their service stations and spend a bit of cash in their shops. We can all pitch in and make a very real difference to our drought affected towns."
Meanwhile, Pambula Rotary's connection with Trundle will continue.
"We'll definitely be heading back over to Trundle," said club president David Wriedt.
"It's a great community - they welcome us with open arms and we're honoured to be able to help them out where we can. We've come home with lots of ideas for our next visit. But the more the merrier - if you want to get involved, it's definitely a case of all welcome. Just get in touch with us."