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Compassion, care and love from above

10 September 2012

Compassion, care and love from above

“A disaster is a bit like a death in the family. Everyone provides support initially, but often as time goes by, the surviving person is left to grieve alone.” Mark Bulow

South Queensland Salvation Army Flying Chaplain, Captain Mark Bulow, knows the joys and the potential hardships of a rural life better than most.

The Salvation Army officer is a farmer himself, and a farmer’s brother, son-in-law, son, grandson and great grandson and says: “My old man lost our family farm (a wedding present to my grandmother from her parents) just before I was born, through a bad drought and some bad management.

“All his life afterwards, he saw himself as a failure. When I was a kid, after work, he would sit downstairs all by himself and just drink. It was really, really sad.”

Decades on and Mark, a qualified helicopter pilot, now heads the new Salvation Army South Queensland Flying Service, as well as the Dalby Salvation Army rural hub, that provides assistance to a number of large towns and surrounding farming areas.

He is passionate about supporting all who are in need, including farmers, and says: “With farming in general, it is a lot harder to make a living.

“So when disasters hit, there’s no buffer.”

Last year, following a donation from Parmalat (the makers of Pauls Milk), The Salvation Army purchased a new helicopter for its Outback Flying Service in central Queensland and redeployed its existing Robinson 44 Raven II helicopter from Mt Isa to Dalby (which Mark will fly).

“Because of the time it takes to go out and visit people who could be five, 10, 15 hours away, the helicopter will mean that I can get out there quicker and visit more people in remote areas,” he says.

In early 2012, Mark, along with The Salvation Army Envoys Earnest and Judith McAvoy and local volunteers, fed evacuees and emergency personnel after flooding hit Roma. Flooding then moved to Mitchell, where a Salvation Army Emergency Services team of 19 fed evacuees and emergency personnel in two centres.

In the weeks, months or even years after the immediate emergency, Mark says, many who have been disaster-affected, including farmers, start to withdraw, and aggression or depression can manifest.

He says: “They look at their farms and see the water and see the crops destroyed and don’t see a way out. That’s the time we need to be out there again and give them a listening ear.”

Ongoing support

To add to the ongoing support on offer, a professional Salvation Army counsellor has been employed by the hub to work in the regional centres.

When needed, Mark can fly the counsellor out to outlying towns and properties, and says it is an absolutely wonderful asset to have a professional available to make sure these people get the right assistance.

He is currently offering support to a range of disaster affected families, including a cotton farming family whose relationships are rapidly breaking down after being wiped out by floods last year.

Mark says: “The husband said to me, ‘the wife isn’t happy and wants to sell the farm, but I don’t want to sell the farm because it was my dad’s farm.’ I don’t know exactly what he’s going through, but I can relate to my experience and see the devastation in the man’s eyes.

“Those eyes are my father’s eyes.”

He says: “We have all got very different backgrounds and we all have different life experiences, but when someone says to me ‘look you know the crops have failed, fences broken, we’ve got no money,’ you can feel the pain, because you’ve walked the pain.

“You have to be careful when you say this because some farms have been through many generations in the family, but sometimes you can say, ‘look its only dirt, but your family will be with you forever…the most precious asset you’ll ever have is your family.’”

The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

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