Rochester rebuilds with hope

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by Tilly Hasell, FareShare's Community Fundraising Coordinator

How do you rebuild an entire community like Rochester?

It starts with determined and caring residents. People who are prepared to manage their own immediate needs as well as their neighbours’.


Jenna Harvey works at Rochester Community House. She lives in a backyard granny flat with her husband and two young children.

The October floods forced them from their newly renovated home into temporary accommodation. “It’s cramped, but we’re grateful… it’s not a caravan. We have showers and toilets… so we consider ourselves lucky,” Jenna says.

Despite their determination, a shortage of builders has delayed reconstruction.

“Even if we were just repairing the flood damage, we wouldn’t be able to move in before Christmas. So, a significant portion of our community will still be living in caravans over Christmas.”

Recovery takes a heavy toll. 

That’s why Rochester Community House has made free and accessible food a priority. Twice a week, dedicated volunteers distribute tinned food, fresh vegetables and FareShare meals.

Community House staff member Jodi Dobson is one of the staff at the Community House. “Many people are living in sheds with only a camp kitchen to cook on,” she says. “FareShare meals are a true blessing as they can easily heat them on camp cookers or in the microwave.” 

Jenna's house still has a long way to go.
Jodi from Rochester Community House with Bev and Sharon.


Another resident Bev volunteers at Rochester Community House.

Her home suffered major damage. She lives in a caravan locally and often stays with relatives in Melbourne.

She is candid about the hardship: “I’m not fond of caravanning… I’m waiting for my son to make my shed liveable so I can spend my days there and sleep in the caravan at night.”

This feeling of displacement is widespread in families and individuals. There is often a lingering sense of uncertainty and instability that has continued well after the floods.

Bev contends daily with the common community challenges of financial support from insurance companies and a shortage of builders. As winter sets in, even personal cooking becomes a daunting task.

“I haven’t been cooking many meals lately because I’ve stored things in the shed. It’s too cold to go out there and cook. I just do a few simple things.” 


Sharon is another dedicated community volunteer bringing comfort and a friendly smile even though she has had to move.

A former teacher and avid gardener, she called Rochester home for 20 years.

Her house was flooded in 2011 and again last year.

“My house is a shell; it has been that way for a while now and who knows when it will be fixed,” she says.

Sharon lived in a caravan in her backyard, but that severely affected her mental health.

“I wasn’t coping and was getting bad anxiety. So, I have moved to Bendigo. I’m much happier now.”

Sharon is trying to have her house repaired so it can be sold.

Sharon's caravan in her backyard.
FareShare team members Sam and Tilly meet with The Rochester Community House team (from left: Amanda, Jodi, Jenna and )

Jodi Dobson highlights the factor that will ultimately be key to Rochester’s future.  “All these people are deeply affected themselves, yet they still want to help. Just like Jenna, Bev, and Sharon,” she says.

“Everyone is the same. It’s in times like these that you witness the true goodness in people.” 

Good people facing bad times. 

You cannot leave Rochester with anything but admiration for the local people. They volunteer their time to help rebuild their entire community while also trying to rebuild their own lives.

You also feel proud of the fact that you work for a charity that is contributing to that rebuilding.

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