Updated: Aug 4, 2021
When natural disasters and pandemic strike, BlazeAid is there to help
Meet Chris Male, Wauchope BlazeAid Camp Co-ordinator and BlazeAid Vice President.
Closer to home, Chrissy Jones meets this wonderful lady, Chris Male, who works tirelessly to help others in need.
Wauchope BlazeAid set up at Wauchope Showground on ANZAC Day and is expected to be established in the community for another six months assisting farmers repair their flood damaged properties across the Hastings hinterland. Run entirely by volunteers who are spread across the country helping those in need, BlazeAid Steering Committee hold regular meetings via Teleconference.
Chris and husband John’s involvement with BlazeAid is very personal to both of them. Their tenure as volunteers stretches over 10 years. After witnessing the generosity of the community when their son and daughter in-law were involved in a horrific car accident they were driven to give back to the community.
One way to help locals who have been affected by the recent flood events, is by donation. BlazeAid is funded by every day Australians like you. Donations via their website or by visiting any Bendigo Bank and depositing directly into the BlazeAid account.
Wauchope BlazeAid is set up in the ladies Auxiliary room at the Wauchope Showground. Chris and John are usually there to accept food donations. You can help by donating home baked goodies like biscuits, cakes, and slices for the packed lunches for up to 20 volunteers each day. Or if you’re keen, and to take the pressure off Chris and John who not only prepare all the meals but handle the administration and daily organisation of the work teams, feel free to bring a big pot of soup, homemade lasagna, or pasta bake. Anything to feed the volunteers after a hard day fencing.
As the saying goes - Many hands make light work.
We need helpers to keep the good work going. No experience required. Tasks are broad and varied each day around the local farms and the camp.
BlazeAid has some accommodation pods set up in Wauchope Showground for those that don't have a van. Most of the volunteers have their own accommodation, a caravan or a tent. And they come from all walks of life, grey nomads, homeless people, backpackers, with some locals lending a hand.
So, how would you describe a typical BlazeAid Volunteer?
They are pretty special people. They all have one common desire to help, and they want to help in a practical way. Some people would rather give their time, be it for a day, a week, or in some cases longer, than donate. Our volunteers take pride in their work, they can see the benefits of their labour; in what they give and do.
The average dollar value of the Volunteers work per person is $300 per day to a farmer. But, it's more than that, they are working alongside the farmer to do farm work that is not the norm.
Farmers have been hit hard, and have suffered terrible what with the March 2021 floods, the devastating bushfires, and COVID-19. Farming properties have been affected in many ways, and our work is to repair or replace hundreds of kilometres of fencing either covered in debris or washed away.
Putting your hand up as a BlazeAid Volunteer working alongside farmers not only helps repair their properties, it is so good for farmers’ and their mental health. Friendships are forged in this collaborative effort, and continue for many years after the work has been done.
To have someone you don’t know help clean debris off fence lines, pick up rubbish that in many cases isn’t yours but from a neighbouring farm upstream, and help erect new fencing is quite remarkable. This effort sees the work completed far quicker than any individual could ever have done themselves. It’s such a relief and sense of accomplishment only achieved by the help from BlazeAid.
BlazeAid Volunteers say ‘they get more out of helping than they give.’ Satisfaction is the common denominator between the farmer and the volunteer. The farmers for having help to get the work done, and the volunteers for the physical effort they contribute.
So, apart from personal satisfaction, a BlazeAid volunteer receives three meals a day, free accommodation at the camp, be it site fee waived for their van or free set up in a camp pod. But they work their butts off! Mostly the work is carried out during the week, but sometimes work on weekends is needed as some farmer works off farm during the week, or the volunteer is only available on the weekend.
Some of the volunteers travel just to be able to help. They may come from Sydney or Newcastle for instance, leave their weekday jobs to put up their hand and help on a weekend.
History of BlazeAid Australia
BlazeAid was founded by Kevin Butler in 2009 following the horrible Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Kevin’s property was one of the first victims of the devastating fire. First triggered by high winds bringing down electrical wires and spreading like wildfire through his property and onto neighbouring land. The utter devastation to their property prompted Kevin and wife Rhonda to put a public notice in the local paper asking for help. They thought they may get a moderate response, but they were overwhelmed with willing helpers. The result was completed work that would have taken the couple at least 6 to 9 months done and dusted in less than three weeks.
Kevin and Robyn felt they needed to share this with their neighbours and the volunteering work continued and has grown since 2009 to form a committee that conducts meetings and travels across the country helping those in need.
Be it fire, flood or cyclone, any natural disaster event BlazeAid will be there to help.