BlazeAid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods.
BlazeAid works alongside rural families, with their volunteers helping to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.
Equally important, volunteers also help to lift the spirits of people who are often facing their second or third flood, or fire, even after years of drought, or devastating losses through bushfires. BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families, but also helping rebuild the local communities.
BlazeAid’s credo: Not just rebuilding fences but helping rebuild lives.
BlazeAid was started by Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler when out of the ashes of Black Saturday 2009 came an urgent need for fences to be rebuilt and communities restored.
The Butlers were among those whose fences were burnt. Needing to quickly secure their 1,500 sheep, they sought assistance from family, friends and local volunteers to help rebuild their fences.
Within a week, the fences were completed – a task that would have taken them months to do on their own. Grateful for the assistance they received, Rhonda and Kevin decided to try to help others in similar circumstances.
Thus, BlazeAid was born.
Since the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires on 8 February 2009, thousands of long and short-term BlazeAid volunteers have come to help rebuild fences for bushfire survivors.
BlazeAid volunteers have come from all parts of Australia, as well as New Zealand, Switzerland, England, Afghanistan, Canada, Germany, Austria, the United States and France.
Working tirelessly but cheerfully alongside the bushfire survivors, they have rebuilt over 400 km of fences in areas including Kilmore East, Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek,
St Andrews, Strathewen, Flowerdale, Wandong , Mt Disappointment, Glenburn, Murrundindi and Clonbinane. In addition, they have helped to remove hundreds of kilometres of damaged fencing , removed fallen trees from fence-lines, helped with gardening projects, and even built the odd chook shed or two.
By lending a hand in true Aussie style, BlazeAid volunteers not only built fences, but helped to restore the spirits of fire survivors who had lost family and friends, pets, stock, homes and property to the inferno. The assisted survivors are extremely grateful for the work, support and friendship of BlazeAid’s volunteers.
BlazeAid’s work over these many months could not have been achieved without the generosity of the many donors, sponsors, volunteer groups, individuals and businesses who have assisted with tools and equipment, food, accommodation and billeting , transport and hands-on support in the fire zones. BlazeAid are extremely grateful for their wonderful support and thank them most sincerely.
Here are a few of the more unusual situations where BlazeAid has helped people since its foundation:
- A young farming couple with 2 kids under 4 were fully financially committed to their farm. They lost ALL their beef cattle and fences and were already working off-farm to cover their farm and stock mortgages.
- An elderly couple battling Parkinson’s and dementia lost all their fencing, including a boundary with Crown Land, and needed urgent fencing so they could bring their cattle back from agistment.
- An orchardist who lost most of his hail-protection mesh, 30% of the trees, his cider production machinery, and most of his ready-for-sale stock of apples and cider, was desperately in need of fencing to stop wandering stock invading the orchard and eating the rest of his trees.
- And an organic orchardist using miniature goats as weed control needing fencing to contain the goats to prevent a neighbour from shooting any that strayed onto his (bare, no stock) land!
BlazeAid has volunteers from all over, with very different backgrounds. Here are just a few examples of the volunteers they’ve had:
- Over 150 Afghani refugees from Melbourne, Sydney and Shepparton communities who volunteered for 1–5 days over the Australia Day weekend. One of them continues to live in Sydney five days a week, travelling to Gosford daily for work, and traveling to Adelong Friday night to work Saturday, and returning home to get ready for Monday!
- An American girl who took her annual leave from work, paid her flights to/from USA to Sydney and worked the full 14 days at Adelong!
- Christine Male who is the current Adelong Coordinator has been working 16–18-hour days, looking after several camps, run jointly with her husband John.
The list goes on but then the need for BlazeAid does not diminish.
Helping Communities Rebuild After Natural Disasters
If you or your lodge wish to help BlazeAid, you can find out more at their website blazeaid.com.au or email [email protected]
Article extracted from Freemason magazine, June 2020, pages 10 and 11.