On Saturday the 5th of March a group of 19 people mainly from our church but some others also, including a small group of girls from Westbourne Grammar School went to Charlton to help with fencing that had been destroyed by the recent floods up there.
We heard about the work when Matthew Parkinson from Bendigo Baptist Church was interviewed on Red Symon’s program shortly after the devastation. He put us in contact with Blazeaid and they in turn distributed us amongst 4 farmers whom we helped clear or fix some fencelines. They were most grateful for our help. View here Charlton Interview 1 for message of thanks from Blazeaid co-ordinator.
Keep posted for some interviews with folk who went up there and some pictures.
We are most grateful to The City of Hobson’s Bay (whose sister shire is The Buloke Shire which Charlton is a part of) for providing us with the minibus to take us up there and for many small & a large local businesses who helped with funds or fundraising. A special note of thanks needs to go to those lovely volunteers who headed up there, those who helped them get there and those who co-ordinate the ongoing relief effort. Blazeaid are still calling for more volunteers as there is still plenty of work to be done. Contact them via their website http://www.blazeaid.com/ if you would like to help in some way.
Here is an interview with one of the volunteers- Cath
Q: You went up on the Friday night?
A: Yes we decided to spend a bit of time and money in the town before going out to work on a farm. We stayed in one of the pubs up there which was very comfortable and clean and we had an excellent dinner up there as well.
We went for a walk around the town after dinner and we were shocked at the amount of damage we saw in and around the town. We found out later that all but two business premises and all but about five houses had been flooded out.
Q: What happened on Saturday?
A: We went out to the Blaze Aid headquarters which was in the Footy club rooms. We met up with the rest of our church who had travelled up that morning.We were given instructions about the work and other information and then registered.
We then chose a farm to go to from the list of farmers who had registered for help and drove out to their property.The others in our group did the same.
Q: Tell us a bit about Blaze Aid?
A: This was really well organised, we were well briefed beforehand and they looked after us really well.You could easily come up for the day with no preparation or even food and Blaze Aid and the farmers provided everything for the day’s work. They gave us tools to use, gardening gloves, sunscreen, antibacterial hand wash, water, even dinner that night and breakfast the next day as we stayed over for a second night.
The farmers provided us with morning tea and delicious lunches both days. We also met other Blaze Aid volunteers and farmers at a dinner that night in the club rooms. We found people had come from all around the country to help out and we got to hear the stories of what had happened to people.
Q: What would your advice be to anyone asking about going up to volunteer?
A: Definitely go if you feel fit enough to do the work. There is still lots of work to be done and the priority is to restore the fences so that the animals can be returned to the properties.
The farmers we helped were incredibly appreciative and so hospitable. They were thanking us for coming up but we were thanking them just as much as I think they gave far more to us.
We were really touched by their humility, hospitality and graciousness in allowing us in to their world for a while and letting us help them. We felt very privileged and it was a pleasure to do it.
Q: What is one thing that has stuck with you since returning?
A: We just didn’t realise the extent of the damage done and it was great to go and see and hear about it firsthand. It may be off the front pages of the newspapers but the after effects of this flood continue and many of the people up there will not be covered by insurance. This will be really devastating financially for a lot of people who were only just starting to recover from the ten year drought.
It would be very heart breaking for them and some may not even be able to continue on farming up there.