The many shades of giving and the Australian bushfires

Uncategorized Jan 07, 2020

There is nothing quite like contribution to claw your way back from despair, to find silver linings in deep dark clouds or as an extraordinary antidote to helplessness, in the face of tragedy. It is in times like these we see the human spirit rise up and stand front and centre with an astonishing display of power and perseverance.

People like to give in many ways, in varied ways and peoples limitations and individual circumstances vary greatly. Nicole Kidman and Pink can generously give $500,000 to the relief efforts and it is no more generous than the retiree who gives $10 or a day of her time to sew bat wraps from injured wildlife. It is all relative, all needed and all generous.

Our firefighters have collectively volunteered millions of hours since these fires started in September and right there with them have been the community houses, the community volunteers, the wildlife volunteers and the ordinary, every day folk who have stepped up to support in whatever way they can. There are those who have bought food and cooked meals for the tireless volunteers. There are the small business’ who have opened their doors and the big business who have given huge discounts. The families that have taken other families in and the families missing mums and dads, sisters and brothers who are on the front lines fighting, helping, reporting, giving. Many people giving a bit here and a bit there others giving immense amounts of time and money.

If there is one thing I have learnt from 20 years of fundraising for non profits its that, people have different values and beliefs that drive their decision making around giving. Some people like to give money to the very large organisations, knowing they have the infrastructure, staff, volunteers, policies and procedures and experience to coordinate mammoth projects. Others prefer their money goes to the grassroots organisations on the ground, knowing these organisations can often be more responsive and nimble with fewer administrative burdens. They like the idea of funds going fully to the cause and not to wages and infrastructure.  Some people are passionate about animals and feel activated to give to the recovery of the wildlife, others go directly to our firefighting service. For some its the human stories that touch them, preferring to give to individual families or communities, where they can witness the impact. Sometimes it is connection to place that drives their choices, they may have lived in a certain town or holidayed there as a child. Occasionally it's the call for assistance from a stranger that randomly lands in their lap, as happened to me last week. For many people its not about relief and recovery as much as it is about the urgency of taking action on climate change that has their attention right now.

Some people simply don't have money to spare and they contribute in big ways too, making food packs, sewing cool neck ties for firefighters, giving time and goods and services. Goods, of course, should be in near new condition, as a rule of thumb, if you wouldn't pay for it, don't give it. Op shops face the issue of massive bills for rubbish removal every year, we need to ensure we are giving responsibly so that it does not become a financial burden to the non profits on the ground (just think how much it costs to run a trailer to the tip these days)

People have all different motivators that call them to action, and lucky for us, there are a significant number of ways to contribute and have an impact now and into the future. This crisis will not be leaving anytime soon. 

There is a place for all the generosity, financial or otherwise and none of us should ever feel limited in our capacity to give what we wish to contribute. It is a gift to have the capacity to contribute and it is a gift we are all entitled to. It is needed now and it will be needed for a long time to come. The trick is to direct your personal flavour of generosity where it needs to go and at the right time. Sometimes, that takes a little time and patience to get right.

At the moment roads need to be kept free for essential services, coordinated organisations and emergency services so we are being asked to not take it upon ourselves to head into the fire affected regions, unless we are part of the coordinated relief effort. But there are organisations in place who are going in, so just link in with those already on the ground, your donations, your time and your support are all greatly appreciated. 

For those looking for ways to contribute, heres my updated guide of current favourites: 

*** I have time to give ***

If you are not currently on the ground in a fire affected area, there is plenty of roles to volunteer your time to, some of these are sewing animal pouches for rescued animals, transporting water and goods, administrative support, sorting and packing donated goods.
The needs are changing swiftly due to changing impact zones, volunteer numbers, and donation requirements being filled as others emerge. 
Get on one of the Facebook pages of coordinating services in your local area for up to date requests for volunteers and requirements. Read guidelines or pinned posts on each page for particulars on how the page works.
For folks in Melbourne and surrounds, I recommend:
Bayside Community Emergency Relief

Animal Rescue Craft Guild: 
1000s of crafty volunteers all over the world have been hard at work sewing and crocheting koala mittens, bat wraps, joey pouches and nests to support the rehabilitation of our native animals. Many organisations are fully stoked at the moment but more supplies will be needed into the future. Contact the fabulous folks at Animal Rescue Craft Guild for the latest requests for crafters, patterns and drop off points for current organisations in need.                        

Have a room to spare? (or need a place to stay due to loss of property or evacuation)

Airbnb have set up pages to share free accommodation for people who are evacuating the fire zones. Find emergency housing or list your property Airbnb Open Homes
Free accommodation will be available until 16 January 2020.

Another bed matching service has popped up here Share a bed

Be a rain maker:
We need good steady soaking rain to help stop these fires. Many of us know that thought creates things and that collective consciousness / prayer / meditation / manifestation / visualisation (choose your flavour) has been scientifically proven to have an impact. 1000s of people have been doing scheduled mediations, prayers and visualisations. To jump on board just type your personal flavour (eg. Prayer for Australian bushfires) into the search bar in Facebook and see what organisations you are connected to have happening. You could also google to connect to new groups.

*** I have goods to give ***

Yes we are seeing many articles and reports to stop donating your "stuff"!  
Also I am linked in with many organisations and communities who are asking for specific "stuff"
The key here is to donate the right goods at the right time. This is not the time to randomly declutter you wardrobe and leave at the local collection centre. We need to donate specific goods that are being requested. People must stick to protocols for effective relief to get through. Currently, I am seeing requests for things like garden tools, chainsaws, medical supplies, water, food as urgent needs.

Again, here I recommend linking in with a local coordinated bushfire response. I love Bayside Community Emergency Relief They have been approved by Emergency Management Victoria and are very well coordinated and up to date with the numerous requests from on the ground. They are nimble, active and getting goods that are needed on the ground. Check updated lists for what is needed, needs are specific for specific times and specific areas. 

If you have requested goods to donate and are unsure of where to take them, you could also look at Drop off locations to find somewhere that might work. Note these are different to rescue locations and are generally private volunteers that have put up their homes to collect needed goods.

If you have stuff to give that is not yet required, consider holding a garage sale and donating the proceeds or donating to your local Opshop so that funds can be directed. Or sit tight, the time will come when we need to furnish and fill homes.

Backpacks 4 VIC kids and Operation Angel
Are in need of donations of specific items for providing hygiene kits for evacuees and firefighters. Kits contain things like shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush, tampons, metal spoons and forks, combs, face washers etc. These groups are looking for generous folks to donate kits of new, unopened contents as listed on their page to be sent to the field. They are also taking donations of items not in kits and hosting volunteer packing days to make these items into complete kits. Drop off point is Brighton, Vic. This could be a great option for people looking to bring a group together to collect, pack and send off to Brighton for them to deliver. Note, kits are specific and must be made up of the contents on the packing list.

Local wildlife services:
Wildlife carers are not supported by government. Right now, they are on the ground, doing the long hours to recover and care for injured animas.
They are asking for donations of medical goods, money, animal rescue pouches etc.
I recommend Warriors 4 Wildlife
Warriors 4 Wildlife have teamed up with Animal Rescue Support and Victoria Wildlife and Animal Rescue Support they are taking donations, volunteers and gift cards and request specific goods donations of VET supplies as needed through their FB page linked above.

The Rescue Collective
The rescue collective volunteers are doing a magnificent job across the east coast of Australia supporting the rescue and rehabilitation of animals harmed by fire.
They have specific requests for donations, ample drop off points and postal address. See their Facebook page for up to date requirement lists.

Foodbank is Victorias official food and water relief agency. They are asking for financial contributions and are also taking donation of goods at the Yarraville Warehouse (warning, the lines of people wanting to donate food have been more than 1km long, so be prepared for a wait!)
For up to date lists of what food is required go to Foodbank

Givit operates in NSW and QLD and offers a unique virtual warehouse eliminates the need for organisations to store, sort and dispose of unwanted items, saving valuable time and resources.
They are running disaster appeals for both cash and goods in NSW and QLD. They will be a vital source of goods for people rebuilding post fire.

 *** I want to give money ***

Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund:
The Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund (GERF) has launched an appeal for financial donations to provide fire-affected East Gippslanders with immediate support. The fund was established in 1978, and is operated by local volunteers for Gippsland communities affected by natural disaster events. The funds raised here will be distributed to impacted families for discretionary use while insurance and government claims are being processed.
Donations can be made via Paypal at Gippsland Emergency Relief Fund, at any branch of the NAB across Australia.

Go Fund Me:
There are hundreds of families and communities raising millions of dollars through Go fund me.. Go Fund Me is working hard to verify all the pages and you can also do your homework to ensure you feel comfortable by looking through the comments. Look for people donating, what are they saying, what are the families and friends saying. These individual pages are a great way to connect with individual stories and to make a difference in someones life. They are also a great way to hunt for stories that speak to your passions and values and to channel your giving accordingly.

Celeste Barber:
Our fabulous Aussie comedian has run a Facebook fundraiser to support the NSW RFS that has now hit over $35 million dollars! Her initial target was 50k and when she went well into the millions she announced that the money would be split to provide relief around the country.  Facebook has agreed to cover any and all fees and PayPal has agreed to release funds as soon as the fundraiser is close, waiving all allotted wait times. Celeste Barber Fundraiser

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital - NSW:
This is who I gave to on behalf of my animal loving step brother and sister as a Christmas present. Their adopt a koala program makes a wonderful present if you have birthdays coming up or not. You are provided with a certificate and story to print off. These guys are doing an incredible job of recovering injured koalas and caring for them, setting up drinking stations for koalas throughout NSW and long term rehabilitation and breeding programs.

*** I want to give but im not yet sure how ***
Awesome! There are so many local organisation getting on board and doing fabulous things. You could likely give fairly consistently just by going about your day to day life. Check out local gyms and yoga studios, many are running community giving classes where participants donate to attend and proceeds are donated.
If you're a business you could check out ways you can support your business growth and donate at the same time by checking out Bushfire Business Bundle
Local cafes are popping out donation jars for change and donating tip jars to the cause. 
Supermarkets have donation bins where people can contribute canned goods and non perishable items.
Watch your local FB pages for something that sparks your interest or consider running your own fundraiser and donating proceeds. I love a good clothes swap or dinner for charity. 

Go forth and give where your heart feels called and stay safe Australia.

** Amazing, heartfelt picture by Melina Illustrates and donation made to Red Cross Disaster Relief on her behalf. Many thanks for your gorgeous and moving artwork Melina.

** I'll be updating this list as I come across and vet great initiatives. 


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