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Messages of support | Recovery takes time | We’ve got so much to do yet

28 January 2020

We’ve got so much to do yet 

Hi everyone,

The poetry below was written by Zayne D’Crus (Creative Communications Manager) and it beautifully captured how I felt over the weekend with the challenges we faced as we need to close down our physical operations.

Thank you all for doing what you are doing for those impacted by the fires. Every day we do more, reach more people, provide much needed support and funds to more people impacted. Every day we are part of the community who has been impacted - supporting each other. Every day we support new fires, new communities. I see, feel and hear the amazing work you are all doing. 

Thank you. And thank you Zayne for your inspiration to me with your words.

For three days, we will be quiet
But we are not resting.
We are working in burnt country and in our own homes
Planning and writing and comforting and processing and providing

Sometimes we are hurt and frightened
We are furious and frustrated
But we are not slowing down

Because we have not forgotten, not once
The family who watched a fireball rip their home apart
The children mourning lost fathers
The elderly woman weeping for her mountains

Nor have we forgotten, not once
The 11-year-old who gave a year’s worth of pocket money
The man who swam 100km
The people who held auctions, collections, concerts, pub nights

They inspire us, haunt us, strengthen us
Go further, they say.
Do more. Don’t give up. Work out how.

And so we push through exhaustion
We go back to the evacuation centres, to the burnt lands
Back to the spreadsheets and the datasets
Back to the phones and the Facebook comments

We comfort each other. Offer tired jokes and heartfelt gratitude
We bring each other chocolate, because fruit just ain’t cutting it at a time like this
Near midnight, we make tomorrow’s plans over WhatsApp while our sleepy partners wait

It’s worth it.
We’d take back no hour we have given.
We’ve got so much more to do yet.

In and amongst the heated discussions online and negative media, we’ve also received many messages of support and encouragement from volunteers on the ground, our partners and people who’ve experienced the same tragedy and received help from Red Cross. The Board, Executive, and I recognise how hard you’re working amidst all that’s happening. Thank you to everyone for your well wishes and messages that give us strength to continue our commitment to assist people affected by the bushfires. I hope you’re taking care of yourselves and if you need to, take some time to talk to your manager or a friend. Our Employee and Volunteer Assistance Program is available and you can contact them at www.convergeinternational.com.au or call 1300 687 327 if you need to talk.   

Recovery takes time

Living through the Black Saturday bushfires at Kinglake in 2009 taught Anne Leadbeater what it takes to recover from a disaster.

“As I pressed my hand to the canvas I was struck by how recent it all seemed. How was it possible two years had passed? I looked at all the hand shapes – big and little - and thought about who and what we had lost. And I read the messages of sorrow and support written by our community. Time heals all wounds they say, but not just yet, or so it seemed. We had come a long way but there was still so much sadness, and so much still to do.”​

Anne also sits in the Fund Advisory Panel, providing useful and timely information for us in shaping the way we deliver our assistance to bushfire impacted communities. Have a read of this timely account by Anne which was published in major publications across the country.

What we’re doing this week   

This week, in addition to the ongoing focus on supporting and processing grants to those impacted, we will be working with local communities and State governments to coordinate support in preparing for hot to very hot weather forecast. We are also working with the Department of Education planning to support students and teachers returning to school.

At the same time, we are providing recovery and psychological first aid training to community members, organisations and local government, with our corporate volunteers helping with packing of recovery resource kits and equipment. We’re also undertaking field and telephone outreach.

Some examples from the field:

  • Through looking and listening we are linking offers of assistance and helping people to apply for emergency grants
  • We’re supporting residents and tourists returning to Mallacoota so they can get their things and check in with friends
  • Supporting communities at locally organised events

Our teams are also working on looking after our people's wellbeing. People working in our emergency response are receiving independent 'wellbeing check' calls and Australian Psychological Society volunteer psychologists are available in person and via phone across our offices. Connect with your local People and Culture team to access this support.

Food truck fundraiser

In the last quarter of last year, Connected Women Darwin organised a series of workshops to help migrant women understand the basics of starting a small food business. The workshop series kicked off with panel discussion which included Marie-Clare Boothby – Member for Brenan, a passionate small business advocate for 20 plus years in the NT, Samantha Wigg from Treeti Consulting – supporting and coaching people to set up small businesses, Ali Saadat– Manager at Nandos NT and Siddarth Albuquerque – a migrant who recently started a small business of his own. Around 40 participants joined the panel discussion on the day including students from STEPS – Adult Migrant English Program provider in the NT.

There was also a cooking demonstration with 20 participants learning the process of setting up a small food business.

The finale of the workshop series was working in an actual food truck selling food to the public. This self-employment training exercise under the In Work Australia program was also a fundraiser for our migration support programs. 

Working with communities

We’ve also had amazing support from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Queensland who organised a reception and donated $5,000 to the Disaster Relief and Recovery fund. Garry Page (Director, Queensland) also shared this lovely photo of a tug-of-war game between the Tamil community and the Rural Fire Service that took place last week. What a great connection with communities on the ground. Thank you to everyone involved, for reaching out, participating and contributing towards the work that we do. It’s an example of the many wonderful support we are experiencing across communities.    

Protect yourself and others against Coronavirus infection

Lastly, as you’re aware, there’s been widespread news on the Coronavirus that has hit many parts of the world, including Australia.

The Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)A novel coronavirus (nCoV-2019) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 6,165 cases have been confirmed globally resulting in 133 deaths. As of today there’s been seven confirmed cases in Australia (four in NSW, two in VIC and one in QLD) and all patients are stable and in isolation.

The Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) plays a very important role in the whole China nCoV response and prevention work making their epidemic operation and wellbeing of the public their number one priority.

To ensure a coordinated response RCSC has maintained a 24/7 information channel with the IFRC team in Beijing as well as 32 provinces and their community branches. At the same time, the RCSC is coordinating with the government to ensure their response compliments that of governments.

Our International Programs team has been working with the Workplace Health and Safety team to distribute updated information to staff. 

Please take care and practise good habits to reduce the risk of Coronavirus infection.  

Should the virus continue we will be taking a major role in any response so we are developing that now. 

That’s all for this week. With so many things going on at the moment, please take extra care of yourselves and look out for each other.

Talk to you soon.
Judy