More than food for Goodooga
It’s fantastic when our Uniting Churches come together to help others, aligning to our commitment to being a contemporary and courageous church and engaging with the community in transformative ways. Goodooga was a witness to these beautiful acts of teamwork, hope and kindness a few days ago.
Goodooga is a town in New South Wales in Brewarrina Shire on the eastern bank of the Bokhara River. Lightning Ridge is its closest neighbour, 73.7 km away. The town lies 20 kilometres south of the Queensland border. The population is 274 people, primarily Aboriginals, and there are about 82 families. They have a School, Post Office, and Health Centre, but there has been no Supermarket for many years. The closest Uniting Churches are Gilgandra or Dubbo, approximately 400km away, but have some visiting pastors and chaplains that visit from time to time and provide “bush church”.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak and following lockdown has reached Goodooga concerns for fresh food and vegetables, frozen food and household essentials have become critical. The restrictions on driving, lack of licences, only one person from a family being allowed to shop, social distancing and the impact of panic buying in Lightning Ridge and Brewarrina cripple the ability of Goodooga residents to access even the most basic goods, let-alone fresh fruit and veggies.
A phone call to Corrina Alchin, Church & Community Engagement Lead at Uniting in Dubbo, who lived in Goodooga and still has family there, changed their hopeless situation and gave the 82 Goodooga families much more than expected. Corrina has worked for Uniting for more than nine years based in the Macquarie Darling Presbytery. During this time, as she said, “I have been blessed to be part of a huge network of both Uniting Church congregations and Uniting staff, whom I consider to be like family”.
She reached out to some churches in the Macquarie Darling Presbytery and beyond to see if they could help, and the response was fantastic. Dubbo, Bathurst, Orange, Gordon/Pymble and Canowindra Uniting Churches went above and beyond. They all did their part, and in just a few days, they hired a pant-tech truck with appropriate driving permits, coordinated volunteers, arranged bills and soon enough, Goodooga received two trucks with fresh fruits, veggies, frozen goods, snacks, nappies, colouring kids and more within a week.
According to Rev. Mel Graham, Dubbo Uniting Church Minister, “Dubbo is a fantastic place to live. The church wants to know the points of pain in the broader community because we are working for healthier communities. Dubbo Uniting Church does not do this alone. We work with others, including highly skilled people from Uniting, under the capable leadership of Pam and all their dedicated and talented workers. Personally, this is the church I was called to serve over 20 years ago. This is the church I love”.
Rev. Graham describes their journey as a one day adventure. For volunteers Meg and Tim, it was a beautiful drive with golden landscapes, emus and their babies running freely, and even a rainbow. Once they arrived, they met a professional team from Goodooga Health Service, ready to unload, all in Personal Protective Equipment gear. There was a very brief but warm exchange, jokes about pumpkins being in season and Meg and Tim were invited back for pumpkin soup when it is safe again.
“We do this because of faith in Jesus Christ and his example to love all and look out for those who have it the hardest. As the Uniting Church, we have big hearts for the wider community and those who have the least.”Rev. Mel Graham
This is a temporary measure, and various Government organisations are now looking at how to make a pop-up shop happen in Goodooga in the near future. But, understandably, it won’t be soon enough, and this will tide the families over until it does. So everyone is ready to assist and go again if needed.
Julie Fye, Corrina Alchin’s colleague at Uniting says “It’s times like this that I feel very privileged to be part of the Uniting Church. The caring and quick responses have been just fabulous. It’s wonderful to see Churches and Uniting working together to make this happen.”
The community have communicated that they are extremely grateful for this support, particularly coming from complete strangers and this will provide relief in the interim until they are able to establish long term solutions to food and other supplies.