BUSHFIRE UPDATE: Members visit affected communities
On the Australia Day long weekend, Members of the Order of Malta visited church communities in the Batemans Bay area to provide solidarity with victims of the bushfires and work with local organisations to understand where best the Order of Malta can direct its assistance.
Members attended masses at St Bernard’s, Batehaven and Sacred Heart, Moruya. Impacted families at both parishes have already received grocery vouchers from the Order of Malta and following mass, members spent time at both parishes speaking with the local parishioners to understand their various needs and situations.
Amongst those members spoke with, were a couple who lost everything including their 23 head of cattle. They were woken up by their children at 5am as the fires approached. They rushed away and their house was destroyed shortly after. They now face the journey to rebuild their home and life.
Members also met 72 year old Graham selling fruit by the road. He lost his house, new tractor, mobile phone and orchard and is now selling the last stock of fruit he has from the van he lives in.
Their learnings from this early work was that needs are varied and will continue to evolve and change.
The Order now is focused on supporting the recovery with small teams visiting families and individuals that have been identified as high risk during this traumatic experience. Parish priests will be supporting and directing our efforts to ensure we can make the most impact through personal interaction, listening to those traumatised and ministering to their individual needs.
Whilst some support and funding is available from the government, insurance companies and other NGOs, there is an obvious need for advocacy services to assist people applying for and understanding how to access these resources.
Meanwhile, whilst these claims are being processed, the Order is looking at other immediate assistance we might be able to provide (in addition to the grocery vouchers already distributed). One need that has been identified is a need for fuel vouchers for getting gas to generate power, as many homes have been without power for over a month.
Another need that will continue to grow is those indirectly impacted by the fires who might not have access to government and other resources. These include those whose jobs have disappeared because there are no tourists; or work they usually undertake on farms no longer exist as the crops were destroyed.
All funds collected by the Order of Malta will be used to buy different types of provisions as needed in the coming months for these victims on a case by case basis approved by our National Hospitaller and our Treasurer. Already we have seen the impact we have been able to make, and with the generosity of donors we can continue this work during the recovery and rebuilding of these communities.
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