- Aussie Volunteers -
- Aussie Volunteers -
I'm always keen to highlight the work of wonderful humans. Today is no exception. Australia, a country with such a small population, is one of the most generous in times of disaster. It still staggers me as to how much money is donated by fellow Australians to support their country men and women in their hour of need. Today I feature an amazing organization that was born out of our worst bushfire - Black Saturday - BLAZEAID.
What is it? How did it begin? Here is the story from the two who initiated this great program.
Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, were among those whose fences were burnt. Needing to quickly secure their 1,500 sheep, they sought assistance from family, friends and local volunteers to help rebuild their fences.
Within a week, the fences were completed – a task that would have taken them months to do on their own. Grateful for the assistance they received, Rhonda and Kevin decided to try to help a few others with their fencing.
Thus, BlazeAid was born.
Since the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires on 8th February 2009, thousands of long- and short-term BlazeAid volunteers have come to help rebuild fences for the bush fire survivors. Our volunteers have come from all parts of Australia, as well as New Zealand, Switzerland, England, Afghanistan, Canada, Germany, Austria, America and France.
Working tirelessly but cheerfully alongside the bushfire survivors, we have rebuilt over 400 km of fences in areas including Kilmore East, Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, St Andrews, Strathewen, Flowerdale, Wandong, Mt Disappointment, Glenburn, Murrundindi and Clonbinane. In addition, we’ve helped to remove hundreds of kilometres of damaged fencing, removed fallen trees from fence-lines, helped with gardening projects, and even built the odd chook shed or two.
After the floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi … BlazeAid has now completed the flood and cyclone reconstruction work in four states. Again we thank our volunteers who have come from far and wide and worked for many months to restore the fences and the properties of 591 farming families.
By lending a hand in true Aussie style, BlazeAid volunteers not only built fences, but helped to restore the spirits of fire survivors who lost family and friends, pets, stock, homes and property to the inferno. The survivors we assisted are extremely grateful for the work, support and friendship of BlazeAid’s volunteers.
BlazeAid’s work over these many months could not have been achieved without the generosity of the many donors, sponsors, volunteer groups, individuals and businesses who have assisted us with tools and equipment, food, accommodation and billeting, transport and hands-on support in the fire zones. We are extremely grateful for their wonderful support and thank them most sincerely.
Our volunteers worked in flood affected areas in Victoria at Bridgewater, (near Bendigo,) and at Charlton. In northern NSW BlazeAid volunteers were at Tenterfield and in southern Queensland at Toowoomba, Stanthorpe, Warwick, Chinchilla, Texas and Mt Tyson.
Following the devastation of cyclone Yasi in northern Queensland our teams were at Tully, Murgon and Ficks Crossing.
Finally, we have also had teams working in the Carnarvon Junction area of WA.
What a season of disasters and repairs! Let’s hope for a better summer although I fear that some areas are looking very fire prone.
Much has been achieved since the disasters stuck. We have had 2,239 volunteers working from the basecamps under the wonderful leadership of our basecamp leaders. We are lucky to have such dedicated people. Thank you.
The teams of BlazeAid volunteers worked a total of 13,463 days and cleaned up 1,109 kilometres of fencing and rebuilt 833 kms. In the Tully area much work was done clearing fallen timber and trees in paddocks. Many other smaller jobs were tackled which relied on the initiative and skills of the volunteers.
A new BlazeAid fence!
If we are lucky our volunteers will now be able to rest and give themselves a well earned break after such enormous efforts. If we are not lucky we may need to call on you again. This is the nature of BlazeAid. We hope for the best but are continually planning for the worst.
As a result of your efforts and the many generous people who have donated money, goods and tools to help us look after our volunteers and keep up a good supply of equipment we are now well situated to meet whatever this strange environment and climate throws our way. Together we can do it again.
We have now set ourselves a task. People know of the work of BlazeAid and how it has restored more than just fences. It has helped restore the lives and sanity of many rural and farming families. Their testimony of the efforts of the volunteers provides us with more than enough reason to keep on keeping on with our endeavours.
At the moment we are shipping our equipment back to Kilmore East, replenishing supplies and repairing and undertaking maintenance of the many items we have. We are lucky to have some volunteers involved with this work.
We would like to thank our many sponsors and friends who have kept us going in many areas.
Two of the many volunteers!
One outstanding donation came from the men and women who work on an oil rig in Bass Strait. They realised our need and they more than met it by contributing significant funds to help us buy equipment and feed the many hungry volunteers who deserve good food and good accommodation.
Another wonderful donation came from the Gympie Muster in Queensland. Their donation helped with the fire recovery and set us up so we could make an early start with the recent disasters. Thank you to all our donors large and small. Every dollar has been important.
As an organization we have grown significantly and have now become incorporated as a not for profit organization. As part of this we have an active committee and office bearers. (They elected me as President!) Our finances are carefully scrutinized by our committee and auditors. We have used the approach of ‘operate lean and be sure we have some resources to use when the next disaster occurs’. Fortunately this was our policy at the end of the fire recovery work and as a result we were able to commence with many basecamps within days of the recent disastrous floods.
We are always seeking feedback about all matters to do with BlazeAid. We have learnt much by the feedback you have provided. If you wish to provide any feedback, good or bad please don’t hesitate to make comments or ask questions. Open lines of communication have been one of the reasons for our success. Our volunteers are the most important part of the organization. If we care for them and each other we will continue to have success.
You may like to send your BlazeAid stories to me so we can gain a broader overview of the operation.
I look forward to working together in the future. I certainly realise the gravity of these words. I think we need to accept the grim reality that we will continue to have significant disasters in Australia. We have taken on the role of providing long term help to those affected by disasters. Some have suggested that BlazeAid is the organization that is still hard at work long after the emergency response, the well wishers and the media interest has dissipated. We are there for the long haul.
To continue to do this we need your help and that of others who will one day join the extended and expanding BlazeAid family of dedicated volunteers.
Take charge, many thanks and congratulations and finally, best wishes.
Kevin and Rhonda Butler."
Ph 0418 530 471
Kevin Butler, BlazeAid Founder and President, Ph 0418 530 471,
8am to 7pm, 7 days a week (Melbourne time), firstname.lastname@example.org
Lyn Bailey, Admin or General enquiries. Ph 0400 833 262,
8am to 7pm, 7 days a week (Melbourne time), email@example.com
Clancy's comment: Anyone wishing to offer their services can contact BlazeAid directly. Or, maybe you guys might like to send Kevin and Rhonda a donation or an email and offer them a pat on the back for work very, very well done.
To me, an extraordinary person is one who does an ordinary job extraordinarily well - like Rhonda and Kevin.
Love ya work, Rhonda and Kevin ... and the work of all of ya volunteers. Australians know how to reach out during a disaster, and we wish the best to those hit by the recent tornado in Oklahoma.