Mum On A Mission

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With the ongoing drought and recent bushfires in our Western Region, proud WestMAC mum Mandy Bower-van Deventer organises water drives for families and school children in and around Stanthorpe through ‘Mum On A Mission’

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The saying “you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl” is so true.

I am originally from the Glen Innes region and I understand what it is like to be limited to short showers or sharing bath water with your siblings, but I have never had to experience not having access to fresh drinking water at school. My mum and stepdad live in Tenterfield. They are on acreage and have only tank water. Trees are dying and a dust bowl of what use to be lush green grass exists on their property now.

After visiting Mum and Mike one weekend, I heard how bad the schools on tank water were finding it in the Stanthorpe region. I knew I had to help. So, I dropped the kids off to West Moreton Anglican College and on my drive home I started planning how. I kept thinking to myself, “What can one person do? What can one mum do to help?” Turns out that one mum with the support of many can do an enormous amount. I am not the kind of person to sit on my hands and let things happen around me.

This started ‘Mum on a Mission’, which organises water drives for communities in and around Stanthorpe affected by the ongoing drought.

The first thing I did was reach out to the Southern Downs Regional Council, who gave me the contact details of 11 schools in the Granite Belt region who were on tank water only. I contacted each school and nine out of the 11 said they would love some help.

I then reached out to the local 4070 Grapevine community and to the parents on the WestMAC Parents Facebook page and asked for their help with bottled water for the Granite Belt school kids. To my absolute delight, within 48 hours my garage was overflowing with water.

With the help of Kennards, who donated the transport, and friends and family, I delivered seven tonnes of bottled water to the nine schools. Enough water was donated for each child to be given one slab of 24 bottles, plus a number of 10 litre bottles for the school to share or send home with the students.

When we arrived at the schools, the sheer gratitude of staff and children was so overwhelming, many tears were shed and lots of laughs had, with many a child reaching out just for a hug to say thank you.

The desperation of the situation hit home for my friend Helen and me at the last school we visited when we needed to wash our hands. The only water available to us and the children for flushing the toilet and washing hands was brown from the bore. The principal encouraged us not to flush unless it was absolutely necessary! That is when you know each and every drop of water is precious. Such a sad, heartbreaking experience, but also an experience I will never forget – an experience that has touched my heart and opened my eyes.

I arrived back to Brisbane thinking, “Wow what a bucket-filling day I have just had.” Then I received a phone call from radio station River 94.9 and they asked, “How can we help – how can we support ‘Mum on a Mission’ to get more water to Stanthorpe and the wider Granite Belt region?

We started a new water drive, and this time it was bigger than I ever imagined possible. Andrew and Tania from Queensland Bottlers donated 19,000 x 10 litre bottles. Rachael O’Kane-Edney from River 94.9 organised for the morning show to do announcements and encourage listeners to donate water. Rachael also helped set up a ‘Water Warriors’ event that took place at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds on 28 September, so we could get as much water as possible to communities for free.

The donations kept flooding in. We ended up transporting over 170,000 litres of water from Brisbane to the showgrounds and for anyone who needed water to come and get what they could fit into their cars, utes, trailers. I have never received so many hugs in a four-hour period from complete strangers than I did that day. The first person was at the showgrounds at 8am, an hour before we opened the gate. We had queues from 9.00 am when the gates opened. This showed how much this water meant to the communities that surround Stanthorpe.

With all the devastation of the recent fires, we are all jumping into action again. This time we plan to extend our efforts wider then water. Mum on a Mission’s plan is to supply water, non-perishable foods, small Christmas gifts, animal products, and second-hand clothing, toys and books for those affected by the fires that have claimed lives, homes and livelihoods.

Thank you to the friends and parents at WestMAC and the Grades 1 ,2 ,3, 4 and 12 teachers and students for all their amazing letters of love and support that were given with every donation of water.  Without the help of the community of 4070, Ipswich and the surrounds, I would not have been able to provide so much support to our rural neighbours.

If anyone would like further information or would like to help, I can be reached via the Mum On A Mission Water Drive Facebook page.

I can also be contacted via email: mandy@purae-t.com

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