By Rosemary Easton
Maureen stood at the window watching the rain. She had woken during the night to flashes of lightning and rumbling thunder. The sound of rain on the roof was very welcome after years of crippling drought. Jack came through the back door, dripping wet, with a smile from ear to ear.
“One hundred millimetres and it’s still teeming. The beginning of the end!” He grabbed Maureen and danced around the kitchen.
Two sleepy faces appeared at the door, the twins, Marcus and Matilda. “What’s that noise? We are scared,” they sobbed.
“It’s okay, children. It’s rain, glorious rain. Come and watch it falling. Look at the puddles. No playing outside today.” Two solemn little faces peered through the windowpane. They were fascinated.
The rain continued for two more days, raising the total fall to four hundred millimetres until finally clearing to the east. Dams were full. Tanks were overflowing. Roads were temporarily closed. The tired, haggard faces of the community showed joy again after the years of worry. Their spirits were raised.
“We can plant crops again,” said Jack, “and begin looking for new stock if we can afford them.”
“We can earn income and pay off some of our debts. The future looks bright,” added Maureen.
DATE OCTOBER 2020
Crops had been planted and yields were high. It had been a difficult time as covid 19 had disrupted the normal routine. Lock downs limited the workforce in the farming, mechanical repairs, delivery of seed and fertiliser sectors. Schools were closed and home schooling became the norm. Social interaction was limited.
After the initial joy of the drought breaking, hard work and long hours had taken its toll on the community. Jack, and others like him, were worn out keeping things in order. While cropping was successful, it was difficult to procure stock.
Maureen was stressed, helping where possible on the farm, maintaining a vegetable garden, introducing Marcus and Matilda to home schooling and keeping in touch with her parents who lived interstate and not coping with their lock downs.
She started a local on-line support service and listened to harrowing tales from desperate families She directed callers to support services. She wrote letters to MPs, government health departments, charities, philanthropists, newspaper and media outlets. She told of the plight of the community. Being a woman with great organisational skills, she outlined ways to help Murtrie:
Travelling and regular health services
Referral to specialists.
Educational support for children who had missed basic learning.
Repairing and supplying sporting facilities.
Renovating vacant houses to become social hubs.
Set up training facilities for Counsellors, administrators and maintenance workers.
She wrote with enthusiasm but had little faith in any action. Jack and the community applauded her efforts.
DATE JANUARY 2021
Letters arrived. Most were negative responses. Some listed Maureen’s projects below other schemes which were deemed a priority. One letter was positive. It was from a firm called Easilife Ltd, principal Matthew Fitzgibbons. To partially quote from it:
Maureen, we understand your plight. I would like to visit Murtrie with a team of specialists in engineering, health services and town planners to find a way forward for you and your community.
Please arrange a meeting as soon as possible so we can start the ball rolling…….
Maureen organised a meeting at the local hall for the following Monday, inviting community leaders and like-minded locals.
A plane landed at a local airstrip and the guests ferried to the local hall. The groups mingled and introduced themselves. A reporter and photographer moved around interviewing and photographing people.
Some of the group requested transport to drive around the area to familiarise themselves with the situation. Jack volunteered.
Matthew Fitzgibbons introduced himself and outlined the goals of his organisation,
TO SOLVE PROBLEMS WITH QUICK AND PRACTICAL ACTION.
He addressed the health service problems that were being experienced, outlining a plan to convert a large vacant building into a medical facility housing one permanent GP, two nurses, teleconferencing facilities with rooms available for visiting specialists, physiotherapists and dentists who would be rostered on a six -week rotational plan. He had priced these services and his company would finance the project. A major concern was the need for psychologists and counsellors and he could promise access to these to begin immediately in temporary accommodation, remaining in the area for one month, and then making arrangements for permanent visits.
For educational support, he had talked with the Retired Teachers Association and former teachers would become grey nomads and supply tutoring and assisting at the local schools. There would be no costs involved and enough retirees to have a continuous rotation for six months.
Landscapers and sport management teams would be made available to renovate all sporting facilities. The NRL and AFL had agreed to sponsor this.
Four vacant houses would be renovated as meeting hubs, one for women, one for men, one for children and teenagers and another for community events. Easilife Ltd would finance this too.
A Training Centre and gymnasium would be built and manned for training personnel as Life- Line Counsellors, administrators, maintenance workers, landscapers, computer operators and meeting area for farmers and agronomists to share the latest farming methods. This was one area that the government would fund.
The media would be blitzed to encourage active unemployed, recently retired, gap year students, former farmers to donate a month or two of work assistance to help farmers.
There was wild applause from the audience. The town council had an emergency meeting and agreed to all the propositions, signing pre-prepared forms required for immediate action. Easilife had certainly done its homework.
Matthew asked Maureen if she could accommodate him for the night when the team flew back to Sydney.
Maureen was overcome with the whole situation as she and Jack drove Matthew to their home. “How can we thank you?” they said.
“It’s a long story. I had been searching Ancestry.com when your letter arrived. I had been adopted by the Fitzgibbon family when I was six months old. My mother died recently, and I went through her papers. My birth mother’ name was Peters.”
“I am Maureen Peters, now Evans. My mother is alive and well and I have a brother and two sisters. Is this just a coincidence?”
“Yes and no! But that information is exactly what I found on Ancestry.com. I couldn’t believe that a letter was sent to me by my half-sister. I have had a successful and lucky life and I am so happy that I can reach out and render valuable assistance.”
Maureen fainted into her brother’s arms, came to, reached for the mobile and called their mother.