Posted by Ken Engsmyr on Oct 31, 2020
Drought 2019
Photo: ABC
Rotarians in First World countries like Australia often work to provide assistance to those in countries less fortunate through programs like  Rotary Austalia World Community Service, Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, Rotary Foundation, and Polio Plus.
In 2018 and 2019 things worked the other way: drought-stressed communities and rural workers in the Parkes local government area (LGA) benefitted from donations made by Australian and international Rotary clubs.
Rotary Club of Parkes and RAWCS
When Jenny Jewell was inducted as president of the Rotary Club of Parkes in July 2018, drought had invaded our area of NSW. Parkes Rotary allocated $10,000 for drought relief.
Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) established Project 38 to manage donations for drought relief. Over the next two years the Rotary Club of Parkes would make significant calls on Project 38 for drought-affected households in the Parkes Local Government Area.
Another Rotary initiative that played a part in the provision of assistance during the drought was Adopt-A-Town.
Adopt-A-Town was established in 2018 to enable Rotary Clubs in Sydney District 9675 to reach out to country people and offer support. The basis of Adopt-a-Town is for Rotarians to visit towns impacted by drought, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and spend in local shops, thereby supporting local economies. Rotarians arranged to meet with locals wherever they could to identify ways in which Rotary might help.  Adopt-a-Town was set up to demonstrate that people in large cities and regional towns care about people in country towns impacted by drought and are prepared to help in practical ways.
Following devastating bush fires, in November 2019 Adopt-A-Town was expanded to include areas affected by fire, flood or drought. As a result of the program, Rotary clubs including Drummoyne, Pambula, Merimbula, Bega, Belrose and Euroa lent support to towns and villages within the Parkes LGA.
Gift cards to help with household expenses, and the local economy
For local drought relief Parkes Shire Council, the Chamber of Commerce, and Rotary agreed to establish a gift card system to encourage local shopping.
To identify cases of need Rotarians used local networks instead of social or traditional media. We knew anecdotally that there were people in the Parkes LGA in need of assistance to cover household expenses. The challenge was to identify pressing needs caused by the impact of drought, including needs that may not have been obvious. By Christmas 2018 gift cards each of $500 value had been mailed out to 100 households.
Drought Communities Support Initiative (DCSI)
On 26 October 2018 the Australian Government announced $30 million to support drought-affected households. Rotary districts 9710 and 9700 (includes Parkes LGA) received $1 000 000 to distribute.
$3000 grants were to be made available to the households of farmers, farmworkers, and farm suppliers or contractors living or working within LGAs declared eligible for the DCSI and facing hardship due to drought.
Rotary districts 9700 and 9710 set up a committee to manage the distribution of grant funds: 436 applications were received; 334 households received the $3000 benefit out of the $1m provided by the Australian Government, topped up by some Rotary money.
Rotary clubs are sometimes criticised when they do not spend all of the income they earn within their local community. The fact is that Rotary is an international organisation. Our mission:
“We provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.”
Over the last few years Australian rural communities have found themselves in need of understanding and goodwill. Remember that the Rotary Club of Parkes provided $10 000 of club funds for drought relief. An additional $45 000 was received from the local community, other Rotary clubs, and RAWCS Project 38, and 77 applicants from the Parkes LGA received $3000 benefits from the Australian Government’s DCSI program: $231 000.
The presence of a Rotary club and a $10 000 contribution by the club resulted in an injection of $286 000 into the Parkes economy by way of providing benefits to drought-affected households.