With severe drought conditions continuing to affect farmers in Australia, a fourth grader at a Catholic school has raised more than $1 million for charities providing drought support.
Jack Berne, a 10-year-old boy, is a fourth-grade student at St. John the Baptist Catholic School in Freshwater, a suburb of Sydney. The Australian capital is located in New South Wales, which is currently experiencing its worst drought in half a century.
After learning in school about the drought and how it was affecting farmers, Berne wanted to help.
“I heard that there are kids that are skipping school to help out on their farms. Kids that are our age,” he said.
At the start of August, Berne created a GoFundMe page entitled “A Fiver for a Farmer” to encourage small and large donations.
“We can all spare five dollars – some of us more – so collect that small change and help us make a big difference,” he said on the donation page.
Berne also promoted “Dress like a Farmer” day on Aug. 13, inviting his fellow classmates, as well as people at other schools and workplaces, to wear cowboy hats and plaid shirts to raise awareness of fundraiser.
The campaign quickly gained media attention and became a national sensation. According to News.com.eu, the 10-year-old boy was able to meet Malcolm Turnbull, Australia's former prime minister, and was given the title of honorary mayor for a day.
The original goal for the fundraiser was $20,000, a number that was rapidly surpassed. By September 7, the campaign had brought in more than $1 million.
All funds raised will go to Drought Angels and Rural Aid, two charities that provide farmers with hay bales, care packages, and counseling services.
The Diocese of Bathurst, located in New South Wales, has also offered aid, both spiritual and financial, to families attending Catholic schools. Families have been offered payment plans or delayed payments without interest.
“The provision of affordable Catholic schooling should not be an added burden to the financial strain of families, especially for those in need in this time of drought,” Bishop Michael McKenna said, according to Mudgee Guardian.
“As people of faith, we are already praying for rain and for everyone whose lives and livelihood depends on this blessing,” he said.