Tenterfield was a buzz with young, strong workers on Wednesday, July 12 as a busload of students from Sydney’s University of Technology fanned out across town doing good deeds.
The effort was all part of The Big Lift, an annual trek around the countryside pursuing the ‘pay it forward’ principle.
The students prepped the walls of a new classroom at The Sir Henry Parkes Memorial Public School, painted an art room at the Tenterfield High School, cleared weeds from a public tree planting, put up a fence at Challenge Community Services, did more weeding at the showground gates and in the barbecue area and along the creek, as well as helping out a couple of senior residents with garden chores.
The group arrived late on Tuesday to their overnight camp under the grandstand at the showground, following a sad incident at their previous stop in Walgett where the bus was pelted with rocks by local youths, breaking the emergency exit window.
The group was informed by police that this is a popular pastime in the town with trucks often targetted, so that they shouldn’t take it personally. Tash Hawken – one of The Big Lift organisers – said it was disappointing considering that the crew were in town to help, but they didn’t let it get them down.
“We just keeping it all positive,” she said.
“We had a board screwed in place pretty quickly and we’ve arranged for it to be replaced when we get to the coast.”
Energy levels at all the job sites around town the following day didn’t appear to be affected, with local coordinator Kim Rhodes saying that all the students were very polite and a delight to work with.
Jim Hamilton supervised the fence construction at Challenge Community Services. There the workers were treated to a morning tea of pumpkin soup, slices and cake courtesy of Challenge’s Wednesday morning group of clients, who often have a baking day.
The hedgerow of native shrubs opposite the TAFE college – planted through Tenterfield Shire Council and Landcare efforts back in 2012 – received a clean-up by the volunteers. Fortunately the weed removal was fairly straightforward thanks to heavy mulching in the past, according to Border Landcare’s Mandy Craig, and council workers carried away the debris.
Ms Craig said it was only through these volunteer efforts that such work gets done. Now that the shrubs are established and the area around them cleared, it will be easier to keep the area in order through mowing.
Another crew tackled the walls of the old classroom at TSHPMPS, getting them ready for the local Lions Club to come along with more volunteers to apply the paint. Similarly it was paint-brushes all ‘round in the artroom at the high school.
Ms Hawken said the team had been flooded with requests, not that they were complaining.
“It’s good to have some extra jobs, as we tend to get through more than expected,” she said.
The bus moved on to Blackbutt on Wednesday afternoon, proceeding on its five-towns-in-five-days itinerary. While the entire trip has been a team-building and leadership training exercise in many aspects, the students will settle into a two-day program once they reach the coast, before returning to Sydney for classes but leaving a lasting impression wherever they stopped.