Red Cross volunteers at Kempsey evacuation centre. Volunteers have been registering people, providing psychological first-aid and conducting outreach services. Photo: Dilini Perera/Australian Red Cross.
With every centre I visited a new story would be told, and my hope would grow.
And so when I was told the story of the farmer who said “Men don’t cry”, I asked our volunteer what she said to him in response. She told me, she looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Well, my father told me that the men who cry have the biggest hearts.” And with that he started to cry, and for 15 whole minutes he let the grief, shock and trauma flow out of him.
He was no longer held together by a lesson from a lifetime ago, he was held together by his courage and strength and the compassion and commitment of one volunteer. This is the power of humanity. What it can achieve is truly extraordinary. What a privilege it is to be a part of it.
This farmer’s journey, like so many others, will be long and the road to recovery will be arduous. But I have no doubt his community will continue to hold him, as will we at Red Cross. We will stand alongside each and every person as they cope and recover, every step of the way.
As I write this on Friday 29 November, there are 147 fires burning across NSW, and the weekend forecast is for hot, dry and windy conditions. We’re in for a long, hot summer. NSW Rural Fire Service has warned us of difficult months ahead.
So, for all of those out there still coping with these fires, and for those who will cope with them in the future: know that we are here for you. Work out your bushfire survival plan, keep in touch with friends and family. Access Red Cross emergency resources and take care of yourselves and each other.
And for those who wish to support our work in disasters, donating to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery helps our emergency teams to do their work – including the bushfires we’re currently seeing across NSW, Qld and SA, and disasters yet to come.