An Australian school helps kids cope with drought
Updated 15:53, 29-Oct-2018
CGTN's Greg Navarro
The impact from Australia's drought, gripping much of the country's eastern states, is spreading beyond farmers.
It's spilling into towns, and into schools.
"I'd say about six months ago, I started to see a change in their behavior," said Trundle Central School principal John Southon.
"They weren't as happy and they were certainly more agitated and our kids, the way we socialize country kids, especially our boys, they won't come straight out and say I need some help."
Drought stricken fields in central New South Wales, Australia. /CGTN Photo

Drought stricken fields in central New South Wales, Australia. /CGTN Photo

So Southon said he felt he needed to do something to help the 125 students in his rural New South Wales community cope with the effects from one of the worst droughts to hit the region in decades.
Many of the students are from farming families, and are taking on the stresses being felt by their parents.
"Scared and worried, 'cause you never know whether mum and dad will have to sell because they are not making any money," said 11-year-old student Sam Charlton.
Southon began raising money to provide the essentials for families including food packages, school supplies, and pamper packages for mothers.
"One of the things that we did is we got the kids to give the packages to the parents so that was the emotional needs of the children," he said.  
Students in the Trundle Central School. /CGTN Photo

Students in the Trundle Central School. /CGTN Photo

"Because they now feel empowered that they can take something home because before they were almost feeling like they were in the way because they couldn't help as much as they would like to," said Southon.
He also mentioned that they had one girl get off of the bus and she gave her mother a food package and a food voucher to go out to dinner. The mother started to cry, and the daughter's first reaction was "mum, this is a good thing." The mother said she had been out with the sheep all day and was feeling worthless. "You brought something home to me that makes me feel good,” the mother told her daughter.
A block of showers used for storage was renovated and stocked with supplies, and washing machines were installed and opened to families. The school also focus on the students' needs by offering classes focusing on positive experiences, and a guide dog has become a welcomed member on campus.
John Southon, principal of Trundle Central School. /CGTN Photo

John Southon, principal of Trundle Central School. /CGTN Photo

"If you come past and you see a beautiful, placid Labrador there, a lot of your anger goes away, and we've found that kids will sit there and talk to the Labrador about very complex problems because he doesn't have an answer, because there is not someone there saying, 'Oh well, you will feel better in a couple of months or something like that.' That is a nothing answer to a 9-year old," said Southon.
The school also painted much of the woodwork on the buildings white, because the original color was too close to the dry earth that surrounds the region.
"From just walking in the school and seeing brown, that's the only color you really see out here but now he has painted them all white and bright colors it makes you feel a bit happier, " said 11-year old student Oliver Dunn.
"When the drought breaks, we will capitalize on the change of attitude and say, 'Let's be really innovative and you kids can start thinking outside the square because we did it while we were under pressure. Why should we stop now when things are good'" said Southon.
(Cover Photo: Students are playing with the guide dog on campus. /CGTN Photo )