✦ BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works alongside rural families, helping to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed by natural disasters.
Equally important, volunteers also help to lift the spirits of people who are often facing their second or third flood event after years of drought, or devastating losses through bushfires. BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families, but also helping rebuild the local communities.
We had the pleasure of chatting with the very busy Camp Coordinator of BlazeAid Wauchope, David Geekie who is responsible for the effective performance of the camp in servicing the community’s disaster recovery fencing needs within a radius of around 100km of the township of Wauchope.
The key role for a coordinator such as David is day to day organisation of the volunteers that are directly servicing those that have been affected by the disaster as well as supporting the volunteers working as kitchen, admin and tool and vehicle maintenance staff.
David is very hands on, regularly liaising with the farmers or property owners who have registered with BlazeAid for assistance. He also works closely with local community groups such as councils, showground societies and others who support them in setting up and maintaining the camp base.
It is a varied role with many responsibilities
Liaising with those responsible for the camp location is possibly the most important role for David, as the volunteers must be accommodated and looked after. The Wauchope Camp had a quick relocation recently so the Wauchope Show could happen for the first time in two years. The Wauchope Cattle Sale Yards was the temporary home and now the Wauchope BlazeAid camp is back at the Showgrounds. David and his team handled the temporary move expertly and the work continued all the while.
Arranging the accommodation, power and water for volunteers, including the camp location and or provision of vans, camper trailers, tents/gazebos and emergency shelters, is always a priority. “We have mattresses, stretchers and at times even bedding for the volunteers," David told us.
"We also ensure there are kitchen facilities and that meals are prepared for at least 6 days a week. Breakfast is currently self help. Lunch and morning tea ingredients are laid out to allow volunteers to pack and take with them so we don’t stress those we are supporting by requiring provisions. Dinner is provided for at least 6 nights a week, so resources need to be organised to provide this.”
Provisions for supporting the volunteers are sourced locally as required.
BlazeAid now provides vehicles for volunteers to access worksites towing the heavy duty tool trailers
David as the coordinator is responsible for their safe operation and maintenance. The vehicles often operated in quite extreme 4WD environments not normally encountered in regular driving.
He told us, “We are currently encountering very wet conditions. One day we are climbing up ridgelines to fix fire affected fences, the next day we are crossing boggy paddocks and creeks to work on flood affected fences. It is not uncommon for us to have to reduce tyre pressures and use both maxitreads and our vehicle fitted with a winch to gain access to our work sites.”