Working in flood recovery

Making people feel safe and cared for during disaster.

My name is Ushani Loku Arumage. During the recent floods, I travelled to Queensland from the Northern Territory to support flood-affected people in the recovery centres.

For four days, I was at the Recovery Hub in Gatton, in the Lockyer Valley Region, meeting and helping people in real vulnerability and distress.

I went to Gatton to listen to the needs of the people in a flooded community, and support them with whatever they might need.

Trauma teddies are given to children at evacuation and recovery centres to give them something to cuddle and feel safe. Photo: Australian Red Cross

I met some older people who kindly refused the practical help that was offered by Red Cross and the other agencies. They said others needed the support more than they did. ‘We have enough’ they said, ‘give to others’.

Then I met a man who accepted all the help, support and vouchers he could get! He then rallied his despairing community to come to the Hub the next day and accept all the help they could get.

As a migrant myself, I went to Brisbane with the lived experience of beginning again and expecting to meet many different people who were beginning again. All the local residents were similarly affected. All were beginning again to greater and lesser degrees.

People who may be unfamiliar with evacuation and recovery in Australia, like international students, are assisted with what they might need. Photo: Australian Red Cross.

In my first deployment I was fortunate enough to have other Red Cross volunteers show me the way. I collaborated with other older volunteers who had spent a lifetime of giving, in floods and fires, as volunteers. Their calm had a profound impact for other volunteers and the local community who they were there to help.

I found that being a good listener was what people needed the most. In her distress an Afghan woman told me her story in Hindi. I understand and speak Hindi a bit. But I think whether I could or could not understand her language, it was important for her to speak and be heard.

As I reflect on my time supporting those affected by the floods, I find my own humanity and humility. The work Red Cross does makes a big difference to those we help. The small contribution of volunteers is part of that, and I’m humbled to have been part of it.

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