THE rain began to drum gently on the roof of the Purcell family home.
Clouds had been gathering all day, dark and foreboding, and finally the tinny rattle of corrugated iron was proof the storm was due to break.
Four-year-old Charlotte Purcell is the youngest in her family; like many country kids her age, she likes the outdoors, baby lambs and Barbie dolls.
Unlike many her age, she is acutely aware that Australian farmers are doing it tough.
So, with the rain beginning to pour down outside her Maindample home, Charlotte grabbed her Frozen-inspired bucket and dashed outside.
“I’m collecting rain Mummy,” she called back into the house.
“I’m going to give it to farm kids whose animals are dying – maybe they can make some grass grow with it.”
Working away in the kitchen, an idea formed in Tanya Purcell’s mind.
Why not take her daughters Charlotte, and nine-year-old Molly, and let them see what was happening in New South Wales?
There is no experience like that learned first-hand.
So, inspired by her daughter’s kind heart, the Purcell family packed up their camper and headed north – and although they didn’t take the bucket of rain, they brought with them hope and compassion.
“Instead of donating online, like we normally do, we decided it would be better for the girls to see first-hand why we need to help the farmers,” Tanya explained.
“If a four-year-old can raid her piggy bank to help, imagine what we could all do.
“We need our farmers – and right now, our farmers need us.”
Travelling thousands of kilometres, visiting farmers and local towns, it was the trip of a lifetime; tainted with sadness at the hardships endured, but also with faith that, eventually, the season will break.
Back home again in North East Victoria, the Purcells have collected donations for those they met along the way.
DVDs, popcorn and lollies for a family who need a movie night.
Skin care, hair treatments and a perfumed candle for a mother doing it tough.
Dog food, flea treatments and a pet bed for the farmer whose dogs are worn to the bone.
And hay, lots and lots of hay.
“Because we met families along the way, we have been able to personalise their donations,” Tanya said.
“We will make a return trip this month, and hand deliver them – hopefully, Charlotte can bring more than just her bucket of rain, maybe it will be the right time for a wet spring.”
The Purcells are part of a growing movement across the North East, as business owners, producers and the public unite to help those in need.
From food collection drop-offs to charity balls, tin rattles to dress up days – people want to help.
In Wangaratta there was a ball, school fundraisers and lots of community groups pitching in.
Out in Oxley, children came dressed in jeans and flannelette in honour of those living in the drought – raising more than $500 for their efforts.
In the Alpine Shire, and across the state, pubs have jumped on board with Parma for a Farmer, donating $1 from every parmigiana sold.
This month, tens of thousands are expected to be raised with the Buy a Bale Ball – being held in Mansfield on September 22.
Businesses have jumped on board as well – last month, buying fruit and veggies in Woolworths diverted funds to farmers, with the two big supermarkets also pledging millions to different drought organisations.
Banks have frozen loans, donated and been told – by none other than the Australian Government – to help where they can.
The call to action has been wide and varied, but there can be no denying that the North East is doing what it can to help drought stricken parts of the country – even right down to a little four year old with a very big heart.