Hot showers and family history

Currently we’re in Wodonga, on the Victorian side of the Murray River. We always knew we’d stop here for a few days, as Kirstine went to school in Albury, and still has family here. To pass on through without catching up would have been sacrilege! Kirstine’s father was in the NSW Ambulance Service for decades, and passed away 15 years ago. We went to visit his resting place, and will be talking about his career as an emergency services worker as part of our documentary.

It is fabulous to have a powered site at the Showgrounds in Wodonga. Being able to run a heater in the camper to keep us warm is a real treat!

The Legend has been turning heads as we have driven through Albury & Wodonga. Today we spoke with two local TV news stations (Nine News Albury & Prime7), as well as speaking at Bandiana Primary School about Mental Health Assistance Dogs. We were so warmly received and the kids simply loved Luna! Some of the kids asked some super intelligent questions, and we were impressed at the level of understanding and curiosity they showed.

A new sponsor, Camper Trailers Albury Wodonga, hand delivered a Smarttek6 gas hot water system to us today. Knowing we can have hot showers even when free camping is truly exhilarating. The kids think they are going to have hot showers, but they’ve been told they’ll be bush-bathing so Mum can enjoy the hot water!! As excited as we are, it was a bit of a relief to know that they don’t want pictures of our first shower with the system!!

Once our interviews are available online, we’ll link them here. Don’t go looking for pictures of us having a shower with the Smarttek6 gas hot water system provided by Camper Trailers Albury Wodonga – there won’t be any 😛

Free-camping and free-dom

 

Our journey along the Murray River has been slow, but we have had some great connections with people.

After leaving the free camping site near Echuca, we spent a couple of nights in Moama at a wonderful Discovery Parks site. It was bliss to shower and wash clothes again! Our neighbours on both sites in the park were interested in our trip. On one side, the gentleman was about to retire after 30 years as a career firefighter within the CFA (Country Fire Authority). He has known many career firefighters who have succumbed to the stresses of the job. He told Paul that we were doing a great thing, by travelling and talking about mental health. Our other neighbour had done 25 years in the Army and also felt the importance of discussions about mental health. Their son suffers from PTSD and they were going to pass on our details to him in the hope that it would show him the other avenues available when life seems all too hard.

From Moama we chose a free camping site on the Murray, near Yarrawonga. Picturesque and peaceful! Kirstine had conversations with people in the car park of the supermarket while on a supply run. We also met a lovely man who was enjoying the camp site too much to want to leave! He is a pensioner, but made a cash donation to us for our charities. We are always humbled by this. People who have little in life, wanting to help others who have less. This is the definition of charity and genuinely boosts our spirits.

It has been a wonderful week of camping, conversations, and making memories. On our only (and old) laptop, we watched “Moana” in Moama and laughed at this wonderful film.  The kids have bush-bathed in the Murray, Luna has chased umpteen sticks and wanted to fetch every line we have cast into the water, and we are talking to people about Life – ours, theirs, and what to do when they need help.

It has been a busy week in the media

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We have been very busy talking to media outlets across the Eastern States. In the last week or two, Paul has gained confidence at live radio interviews (including making a show bite for one station), and Kirstine thinks he comes across really well!

Paul and Kirstine have spoken to numerous reporters (two of the newspaper articles are in the photos on this post, and one article is here).  The kids and Luna are well experienced now at having their photos taken.  Several of the radio stations are looking forward to having us in their station whilst we are in their area.

As we travel into New South Wales, we expect that the media interest will continue. If you are from a media outlet, please get in contact with us to arrange an interview. Fingers crossed, we will be picked up by a television network soon to help spread the news about what we are doing.

Laptops still urgently needed – NSW or VIC can you help us out?

Unfortunately we are still trying to source laptop suppliers as we have not had a single reply to our last post.  Since the last post we have had several interviews with media outlets which has resulted in a significant increase in our websites hits and in particular, our Sponsors page, so it would be a great time to join our growing list of fantastic sponsors!

Due to an unexpected and unfortunate incident, we are urgently seeking a sponsor or sponsors to provide us with the following equipment. Please note, you do not have to be in the computer sales business to help us out!

* 1x Laptop (High Performance for video editing) – Most Important

  • Prefer MacBook Pro but Windows 10 Professional or Mac OS X 10.10.x, 10.11.x, or 10.12.x would be great
  • Minimum 16 GB RAM (prefer 32 GB of RAM to run Avid Media Composer)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor/high performance CPU
  • DVD Player/Burner
  • High Performance Graphics Card
  • Wireless Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Additional Battery

* 1x Laptop – 2nd Priority

  • Prefer MacBook Pro but Windows 10 Professional or Mac OS X 10.10.x, 10.11.x, or 10.12.x would be great
  • Minimum 8 GB RAM (prefer 24 GB of RAM)
  • Intel® Core™ i7 processor/ high performance CPU
  • DVD Player/Burner
  • High Performance Graphics Card
  • Wireless Mouse
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Additional Battery

* 3x Basic Laptops for the kids schooling (school requirement) – 3rd Priority

  • Laptop/Mac
  • Pentium IV/Leopard
  • Windows 10
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 160 GB Hard drive
  • DVD/CD Rom Player
  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Mouse

Please note: we do not expect one organisation to supply all the items we have requested. If you can only supply one or two items we wound be very grateful.  If you would like to help us out, please get in contact with us on 0427 388 168 or DrivingOzBlackDog@gmail.com

 

Media releases and interviews

Today we’ve been enjoying some R&R by the Murray, and fielding phone calls, emails and texts from some of the media outlets we’ve contacted in regional areas.  

Paul was interviewed by a NSW radio station, who invited us in to the station when we’re near Sydney. 

We’ve also been asked to interview with a Ballarat radio station later in the month. 

Kirstine was talking to a couple of people in town yesterday, and heard that Mildura has a very high rate of suicide. We were really pleased then to have the Sunraysia Daily respond to our media release today and send out a photographer to meet us at our camp site. 

We’re booked in this weekend with the newspaper in Kerang too.

We’re definitely not people who like the limelight, but we need to bring attention to our cause in order to raise money. 

A huge thank you to Vittori Communications for drafting our media release. We’re still learning the ways of media, but are buoyed by the response we’ve had today. 

Our first speaking engagement .. eek!

 

How do we try to put words to today’s experience?

A couple of months ago, we were contacted by Cherie, the site manager for the Youth Education Centre (Flexicentre) in Adelaide. Cherie asked if we’d be willing to come and speak to their students about our trip and Luna. Cherie was up front and told us that many of their students are disengaged, and have had very difficult lives for those so young. We told Cherie we’d be more than happy to come and meet her and the students, which eventuated this morning!

The staff were so happy to see us and came to speak with us before the students broke for recess. We were made to feel so very welcome 🙂

Watching the students arrive at The Hub for their self made recess of toasties and a hot drink, we could see the initial reaction to seeing strangers in their space. We let them be and set up our equipment, and set our kids up with some colouring in activities. One of the young girls helped our youngest daughter choose her favourite design to colour in.

The time for presentation arrived, and Cherie introduced us to the group of students, staff and support staff. We recorded the presentation for the purposes of our documentary, and made sure that we had permission to film and photograph today’s event.

While Paul spoke to the group, informally and casually, Luna made her rounds of the students. Normally she would have been at Paul’s feet in a “drop” position, but he purposefully let her roam the room to interact with the youth in the room. We were able to observe these teens letting their guards down and smiling as they scratched/pet/played with Luna as she walked around. Luna was the perfect icebreaker to a topic that included the importance of checking on your mates, and speaking up if you’re not feeling ok. Paul spoke about Lifeline’s 24/7 crisis support, be it on the phone or the chat service, and that depression and mental illness can creep up on anyone at any stage. 

There was genuine interest in Luna’s abilities as a mindDog, and even though she paced the room and loved the attention, she always came back to Paul to make sure he was ok. Staff and students could see her ‘working’, and seemed to appreciate that Luna really is a special dog.

One student was struggling to understand the concept of a service dog for someone with mental illness, and was asking questions to try and comprehend. This didn’t concern either Paul or Kirstine, as those who have not had positive experiences with dogs or other animals, need time to process the idea. The student’s enquiring mind was welcome, and we’re sure that even though he became eventually left The Hub to try and work through this new idea, he will be thinking about our visit today. One teacher told us that the student had wanted to come back and speak with Paul, but was worried about upsetting him. Our concern had been for the student, so we were incredibly touched to hear that he was not wanting to upset Paul by continuing his quest to understand.

We know that some of the students instinctively “got” the message about Mental Health Assistance Dogs, and all the teachers thanked us for coming. For us, it was very much an honour to have been invited, and to meet these youths who are hardened by a difficult life, but have so much potential. 

Paul was drained after the presentation, and admitted during it, that it was stressful to stand and talk in front of people. His candour definitely helped him relate to the audience. It was our first speaking engagement, and will always be remembered for its significance and the receptive audience.

Thank you Cherie, Trish, Anton, Sally, Sister Bernadette, Liz, and the other staff whose names we missed. Thank you also to the students who attended today. You respected us. and our kids, and loved Luna. We think you’re all wonderful!