Rural people helping rural people

Rural Support Trust Waikato chairperson Neil Bateup says many dairy farmers are currently busy moving to new farms for the upcoming season.

Moving house and changing jobs are acknowledged as two of life’s most stressful events, and in the thick of it at the moment are dairy farmers who are moving to new employment.

Supporting the rural community through stressful times like these is the Rural Support Trust.

In the Waikato, the trust typically deals with 300-350 calls a year – almost one per day – confirms Waikato branch chair Neil Bateup.

Calls are spread pretty evenly throughout the year, but can spike during adverse weather events, calving and other high-pressure times of the year, says Neil.

The issues people call about are varied: financial problems, employment issues, relationship difficulties, mental health concerns and farm management problems. Working through the impact of adverse weather events also generates many calls to the trust, says Neil.

One-on-one support is part of the service provided by the trust. In Waikato, one of 25 volunteers will visit the caller and have a chat to discuss the problem.

“Our people have a rural background and are often farmers themselves, so they understand and relate to the issues people are calling about.

“Our trust is about rural people helping rural people during difficult times – no matter what or when.

“We lend a listening ear, and help people separate out the issues and work alongside them to develop a way forward.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as needing someone to talk to. Other times a more comprehensive response is needed,” says Neil.

Rural Support Trust maintains an extensive network of contacts and when needed will facilitate a referral to specialist support including mental health professionals, counsellors, financial advisors, farming experts and business mentors.

Kiwis are notoriously staunch – and, the biggest barrier to accessing the trust’s services is often an unwillingness to ask for help, says Neil. “We’re always there if people need us. They just pick up the phone.”

The trust’s confidential support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and with 14 branches nationwide, and hundreds of volunteers, there is always someone nearby to assist.

Supporting farmers during floods and other adverse weather events is an important part of the trust’s work.

“We co-ordinate community meetings, bring in experts and work alongside Ministry of Primary Industries and other organisations like Federated Farmers to support people through these difficult circumstances.”

The trust’s work is part-funded by MPI, and generous donations and fundraising make up the difference, says Neil.

Contact the Rural Support Trust through their website, Facebook or on 0800 787 254 to get in contact with a support person in your region.


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