It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. Our beautiful country is burning. The feeling of helplessness is rife within communities who watch the gut-wretching footage from afar. Images of fire, destruction, injured wildlife, children wearing breathing marks, families escaping in boats, and much worse are being spread around the world.
Growing up in Austalia, bushfires are a part of life. Every summer brings regular bushfire warnings, evacuations, and unfortunately, the inevitable ‘big one’ that hits from time to time.
Except this year is different. This unprecedented ‘big one’ is widespread and fast-moving. Our superheroes, those selfless people who sacrifice everything to fight this beast, have said entire towns can not be defended.
A Brief History of Australian Bushfires
My own father was a volunteer in the CFA when he was younger. He defended our neighborhood from the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983 where 75 people died across two states. We were fortunate that our family home was safe. In a street of 16 houses, ours was one of just three that remained.
The Black Saturday fires of 2009 resulted in 173 fatalities in Victoria while burning through 450,000ha of land. Weather conditions that day were appalling – temperatures ranged from 47-50 degrees Celsius (that’s 116-122F), and the strong winds whipped the flames into a massive frenzy that obliterated everything in its path. Entire towns were destroyed – a drive through Marysville shows streets of recently-built buildings. My family makes the trip through this region several times every winter to visit nearby Lake Mountain. We always show our support to the community and their local businesses as we pass through. It’s not much, but it’s something small that we can do.
The significant loss of life during the 2009 fires prompted Government change. We now have early warning systems in place – read about Victoria’s early warning systems here. This is one of the reasons why, despite the fast-moving nature of the current fires, there have been far fewer human fatalities – 21 at the time of writing (across three states).
The Current Fires
The fires currently burning across Australia are worse than ever before. An estimated half a billion (that’s right, BILLION!) native animals have perished. The fires have burned over 6 million hectares of land. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. Businesses, towns, and schools are completely gone. Images that show just how ferocious these fires are can be found here (Warning: images of deceased animals are included). The smoke has created air conditions that are currently the worst in the world, with the smoke cloud extending further than New Zealand.
The Aussie Spirit is Strong
In the face of such catastrophic devastation, our spirit remains. Tales of selflessness and helping hands are emerging from the charred remains:
- Our selfless firefighters (many of whom are volunteers) will defend the homes of complete strangers even though they know their own home has been destroyed.
- Find a Bed has been set up to connect people who can not return to their homes with people who have a spare bed.
- Schools have welcomed students from nearby schools that have been damaged or destroyed.
- The Animal Rescue Craft Guild group on Facebook has exploded in numbers over the past few weeks – people from all around the world are working tirelessly to create pouches, nests, and slings for our injured wildlife.
- The Terry Floyd Foundation is running a book drive to restock school libraries and get books back into the hands of children.
- Zoos Victoria have sent a team of vets to the bushfire zone to support our native animals. Donations can be made here.
- Teacher-Authors on TpT have identified resources with #AusTeacherBFR. Proceeds from these sales will be donated to the Bushfire Relief.
How Can You Help?
At a time when our teachers and students should be preparing to head back to school after the summer holidays, many now face uncertainty. Many children are now homeless, or unable to return home due to the ongoing threat of bushfires. Schools have been destroyed or damaged and will need to be repaired before students can return. The coming months (and years) will show the emotional impact of these fires on our children.
Helping is quite simple! Here are some ways that teachers around the world can help:
- Search #AusTeacherBFR on TpT. You’ll find heaps of great resources for your classroom. Teacher-Authors will be donating proceeds from the sale of these resources during the month of January directly to Bushfire Relief. Please check individual listings to see where each seller will be donating the money (most are donating to Vinnies). Melissa Bagnall at Ridgy Didge Resources has organized this effort. Please note that TpT is not able to verify donations.
- If you want to make a monetary donation, check out any of the reputable organizations here. Some of these will accept international donations.
- Monetary donations to support native animals can be made at Zoos Victoria, WIRES – Emergency Fund for Wildlife, Koala Hospital, or WWF.
- If you can sew, knit or crochet, join the Animal Rescue Craft Guild on Facebook to find the patterns for pouches, nests, and slings and start creating.
And to the teachers that live in Australia – plan a trip. Once the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, show your support to these communities. Towns rely on your tourism dollars. Plan a day trip or weekend away. Eat at the local restaurants or cafes. Explore the local shops. Visit the local attractions. Stay in the local accommodation. Most importantly, do not enter any bushfire affected areas until officials declare the area safe to do so.
Help spread the word – let’s see #AusTeacherBFR spread faster than these bushfires! Share this image across your social media accounts and get the message out that Australia needs your help.
The organizations listed here are all reputable charities, however, this list is not exhaustive. There are additional charities or fundraising options that you might prefer to donate to. I urge you to check the integrity of other charities before donating; unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people around the world who will try to take advantage of the generosity of strangers during times of crisis.
The Final Word
Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read, share, spread the word, and help in any way that you can. Australia will appreciate your help.