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In Queensland’s South Burnett region, they have been struggling through a declared drought, with water and food for livestock limited and the costs to keep them fed skyrocketing.
In spring, the area was also battered by consecutive storms that tore through the region, destroying millions of dollars’ worth of crops and damaging infrastructure.
Sometimes, it is hard to catch a break on the land.
Jim Hodge is a Community Chaplain working in the area, helping farmers and local families navigate their journey of living on the land.
Jim is there, in the community, to provide a helping hand when needed.
Droughts are a familiar pattern in Australia and extreme drought is an added pressure on rural people.
"Their crops fail and cattle have little to no feed, causing a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that could lead to other social, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual factors,” Jim said.
“A lot of the people I see are either through word and mouth, or by a referral from other services or individuals. As part of my role, I go to places where people meet and let people know what I do in the community. Other times it’s about showing up after a disaster or crisis just to see how people are travelling and to lend a hand,” he said.
Jim provides holistic support to people across the region, with a particular focus on helping farmers and in local men sheds.
As part of this support, he offers genuine compassion, without an agenda, as well as more practical assistance, including food, fuel and clothing, information and referrals, and his body as labour (including chopping up wood, fixing fences, pulling a car out of a bog).
He is also there to listen.
“I provide a listening ear so that people can share their experience and feelings, and know that they can speak freely and in confidence,” he said.
“I work with communities so that they can come together and engage, providing opportunities for this to occur and joining in with community events such as fares, the Bacon Festival and more.
“I am there to pray with or for someone, available and ready to hear where people are at in their spiritual life.”
There is no doubt that his presence and help has an impact on those in the community, even if it is subtle.
“I guess we don’t always know the true impact on each person’s life, however you do see the gentle change that occurs in people’s lives as a result of the work that God does through us as chaplains.
Other times the change is more subtle as people’s lives are changed in a big way.”
Farming families and those living in rural areas have been under increasing pressure in recent years, with natural disasters and drought, the price paid for produce dropping, the incidence of suicide amongst farmers, and financial and familial pressures.
“Farming can be very lonely, living in remote areas without supports so to have someone to listen to you can make a world of difference in people’s lives. It is about knowing that people are not alone,” Jim said.
You can help Jim to continue to deliver this vital service in the community by donating to our Community Chaplain program at cofc.com.au/give. By making either a one-off donation, or setting up regular giving, you will make a real impact to the lives of people struggling on the land.
Find out more about our recent endeavours in the latest edition of Networking.