Above: Oscar Spora (front) with his dad Joe, on their farm in Curban.
For Oscar Spora, living through drought on 1400 acres in Curban in regional NSW has forced him to grow up fast.
He’s only in Year 7 and still a boy—yet he’s working like a man to help his dad keep the farm afloat. But he takes it in his stride.
“The things I do to help Dad is sheep work,” he told us. “Working the sheep around, drafting, even lamb-marking – that’s fairly hard. Lift ‘em up, ring ‘em, tag ‘em, vaccinate ‘em. You sort of have to work like an adult, because Dad can’t afford to pay a worker.”
Oscar doesn’t only work like an adult—he thinks and talks a lot like one, too: “Now we’re in a drought we’re just sitting on every rainfall and just hoping,” he says. “We’ve barely gotten any crop off, most didn’t even sprout up.”
Along with his younger siblings, Oscar knows the difference between “wants” and “needs” and rarely complains, because, in his mum’s words, “he gets it”. He’s also learnt how to entertain himself when he needs to escape.
“To get my mind off the farm I read a book or go outside, daydream, listen to music, even like watch a movie or something. That helps. Go into a different world,” he said.
Neal Reed, the principal at Oscar’s school, Gilgandra High, said many of the students living on farms are just like him.
“What has been interesting is the way in which students have had to grow up, in a way, beyond their years,” Neal said. “There are parts of the lives of these young children that they can’t control, that they understand what’s happening… but they can’t contribute financially or can’t support Mum and Dad, despite every wish to do so.”
The Financial Strain on Families
In Molong, about 200 kilometres to the south of Oscar’s place, lives 17-year-old Henrietta Pottie.
She’s grown to accept that there are no luxuries anymore, as long as the drought continues.
“I think that the drought is a form of natural disaster,” she says. “It’s a bit different to floods and bushfires because it’s a lot slower. But because it’s slower it’s a lot harder, you have to live through it for a longer time.
“So cattle and sheep eat grass, and in drought there’s no grass. So they don’t have anything at all to eat. So you have to feed them by hand to keep them alive. It’s very expensive.
“I don’t really ask my parents for money any more, I either use my own or just go without things. So my friends and I don’t go out as much, or the movies or shopping as much, because it’s a financial strain on our families.”
The Difference a Youth Camp Can Make
For both Oscar and Henrietta, Scripture Union’s youth camps this year provided not only a reprieve from the daily grind, but also helped them to build fun memories, get some spiritual input, and form lasting friendships.
Henrietta attended a Bike Camp, and loved seeing the greenery of a new environment, and sitting around campfires at night. Oscar, on an invitation by his scripture teacher Ayumi, headed to Dubbo for a Cricket Camp along with two of his schoolmates, and said “it was the best thing for me”.
“It was actually so much fun, I made so many good mates, and just played cricket for three or four days,” he said. “I loved playing cricket, going for a swim, going and playing Laser Tag… doing those things… it was good fun. And it was good food. We had a roast one day, burgers, pizza.
“The volunteers were amazing. I made heaps of new friends.”
For 16-year-old camper Hannah Griffiths, a Watersports Camp at Chaffey Dam was not only a time of friendship and fun, but a boost to her faith, too.
“It was time when I saw God at work in me as well as others,” she said in an article for the Tamworth Times. “There were people there who came with hard hearts. It was wonderful to see God softening their hearts and planting seeds.”
Oscar: “The volunteers were amazing. I made heaps of new friends.” Hannah: ”You feel accepted. I felt like God has set me free.”
Having grown up in a Christian family, Hannah has embraced her beliefs for herself in recent years, and said it was great to be on a camp that supported her faith.
“There’s something unique about living for a week in a Christian community,”
she said. “You feel accepted. It is truly liberating. I felt like God has set me free.”
How Can I Make a Difference?
Through Kids to Camp, Hope listeners have sponsored over 500 drought-affected kids and teens to attend Scripture Union youth camps in 2020. If you still want to give, you can support SU NSW in their ongoing ‘Give Hope to Drought Affected Families Appeal’. This will help them to…
- Train and support their camp volunteers
- Create resources to share the gospel at camps and school clubs
- Help team members travel long distances – to camps, training and drought-related ministry