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Camp Cobbold reaching out to bush families

Charlie McKillop, Thursday October 17, 2013 - 14:39 EDT

What inspires a group of people to leave their leafy suburb in Brisbane to drive 2000 kilometres to help out a bunch of strangers living in one of driest, remotest areas of Queensland?

It's 'Camp Cobbold' - a week-long holiday program for remote families, made possible entirely because of the contribution of volunteers and generous donors co-ordinated through Scripture Union.

As you drive along the dirt road to Cobbold Gorge, south of Georgetown, it' not hard to see why these families might need a break.

The harsh, uncompromising landscape in the grip of drought.

Trees are dying on the side of the dusty road and there's barely a blade of grass to be seen.

Yet as you through the gates of Cobbold Gorge, the sound of children's laughter rings through the hot, dry air.

Pretty soon, you'll come across a volunteer, or a child, or a mother - and the one thing that unites them is a common desire to have a good time.

Camp Cobbold is now in its fifth year.

Co-ordinator Katarina Keough says for the first time, she's had to turn away families from the popular event.

"I found that really difficult particularly when you know that the people that are asking to come are as needy as everyone else here in terms of being socially isolated, lacking access to services and lacking opportunities for their kids to come and have swimming instruction and some of the activities we have on the program.

"I think we had 201 people for this year and so we're overflowing in terms of capacity and it got to the point where we couldn't fit any more people.

"There's a lot of people really looking for a break at the moment... but it's great that we've been able to accommodate between 40 and 50 families from across the north who are really needing a break and a holiday and a chance to connect with their friends and to learn a few skills along the way."

Mrs Keough estimates the actual cost of hosting Camp Cobbold is around $100,000, with another $200,000 worth of in-kind support and donations in the form of a seven vehicle convoy from the Toowong Uniting Church to the Etheridge Shire.

But it's impossible to put a dollar value on the difference it makes to remote families, some of whom are facing devastating financial circumstances right now.

"What we have achieved here is beyond what we ever would have thought possible and a lot of that is because of really hard work by professionals that have volunteered their time.

"We've got speech therapist, we've got psychologists, we've got physiotherapists who are travelling up here volunteering their services for our community and we never would have been able to have all of those support services on the program.

"So, for us, just finding these amazing people to run these programs, facilitate the courses and the children's activities.

"It's been a real godsend and we're really grateful for the people that do stop and think about people that they can't see beyond the city limits."


© ABC 2013

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