The bushfires this week have affected me in a big way. Like many Victorians, I am tearful and grieving, even though I personally haven’t lost loved ones or property.
My Mum knew some of the people that perished. I know people who have lost homes, property, livestock or all of the above. I have friends who are still living with hourly fire danger warnings and are poised, ready to evacuate.
Today Melbourne lies under an ochre pall and my eyes sting with the smoke in the air. It reminds me of the dedication of the volunteers who have been battling extreme conditions for more than a week now.
I used to think city people have little empathy or understanding for rural bushfire victims. It doesn’t usually affect urban dwellers and so they scurry on, disconnected and disinterested. Not this week.
I have never seen so many people so galvanised, so ready to give or serve to help those directly affected by the horrific firestorms. My son’s school is having a fundraising barbecue tonight. Other friends have been taking carloads of food to welfare agencies and homeless families – or even blankets for injured and homeless animals.
Watching footballers, cricketers and actors go to entertain children left homeless from the fires, it occurred to me that authors and illustrators are entertainers and could be helping too. I have contacted people better connected than me, suggesting that authors and illustrators get out and spend time with bored, homeless kids. I’ll certainly help in any way I can.
Alternatively, we could hold some sort of fundraiser – perhaps a trade fair or a reading night where librarians and students in non-affected schools pay to hear / mingle with authors and illustrators so we can raise cash for schools and libraries that have been destroyed. We could also approach publishers to see if they are in a position to donate any books to help restock libraries.
I saw victims of the current floods in Queensland interviewed on television earlier this week. Several of them pledged their emergency flood relief money to bushfire victims. Now that is generosity.
These fires are part of the story of our lives. Stories give us understanding and empathy and join us together. By working together, we can write the most positive ending possible to this tragic chapter.
See this page for information on donating to the Country Fire Authority.
See this page for info on donating to the Red Cross bushfire appeal.