I was shown, via soical media, the fruits of the idea to assist firefighters on Sunday ('Fire in the belly to assist', Newcastle Herald 6/1) and then the results, which were both impressive in their size and in filling a need beyond what at times is known. Seeing the photo posted of the queue of goods and people waiting to pack one of the many trucks you sourced and then filled, I wanted to make sure that the person behind the generosity also got to know how far her idea stretches.
At the time sitting in the rear of one of seven Central Coast based trucks (the second team returning home that day) from Batemans Bay and its surround areas gives volunteers a lot of time to think and chat. Seeing the simple photo led to the realisation that a simple act of donation goes far beyond the mere handing over of an item.
The donations fill a need that at times varies from assisting firefighters to filling an outright desperate need. It fills our stomachs, it hydrates us, it helps us recover and at times remember how nice some simple pleasures are. All of which are much appreciated and humbly accepted by every vehicle that rolls out of a fire control centre or staging area.
But at moments it is also like being given the hug we might desperately need, a caring touch even if it isn't physical that what we are trying to do has our families, our friends and our communities thinking of us. That people are taking the time and effort to find something to help, to remind us that back in our own areas we are being supported by people we have never met, is a mix of emotions that is hard to explain but can recharge volunteers not only physically but mentally and emotionally also.
A simple act of donation goes far beyond the mere handing over of an item.
And then there is the unknown aspect, that every donation we receive from home is something we aren't taking from what the communities we are in just as desperately need. It is easily forgotten, the literal drain on limited local resources that incoming firefighters and other emergency services have. Every bottle of water, every snack and every meal we consumed while away was something that had to be sourced from a community already cut off from transport outside, without electricity and no knowledge of when it might end.
That idea you had of perhaps with friends filling the back of a ute became an outlet for many of those who donated also. A way to engage with others that were affected, to empathise with those other communities and the difficulties they faced, and to link with those emergency services in a meaningful way. All of which is true, and would make an interesting study into human interactions under times of emotional stress.
The other reality is it touched me very personally.
The photos were that literal hug I spoke of, we had over the previous few days done some good and in that process been forced to make some very hard decisions and had some forced upon us. While it was nice to be heading home, it was overall a physically depleted and emotionally drained group. So when the photo came up on my phone, for whatever reason I caught myself staring at different things and linking them to moments over the previous days.
In it there was a mother holding what appeared to me was a young teenager to her shoulder. Perhaps they were simply tired or bored but it was an image seen time and time again too recently for other reasons.
A family at the same accommodation as us, where a daughter was fretting for her grandmother because they couldn't reach Victoria due to the expected events across Gippsland, or the young woman who couldn't help but cry when we invited her to share what we had bought for breakfast after we were told they had lost everything.
Seeing the sheer volume of what was being left and yet knowing it would be a drop in the ocean of what was being needed across so many places in the country. There were people standing, not appearing to talk but just looking, and I would like to think taking some comfort in what they were seeing themselves.
And the photos of your delivery I think speak for themselves. The smiles of faces of people who have been at this task for far too long, both staff and volunteers alike. And not just NSW Rural Fire Service but SES, Fire and REscue, National and State Parks, Ambulance and police who work beside each other in those centres and out in the fires.
I hope this less than Shakespearean tale helps you know the depth that your decision has and will be having. The generosity was shown by many, but without someone to provide that call to arms so much assistance would never eventuate and so many people would be the poorer for it.
So from myself as a volunteer, from our group as a brigade, please accept our own humble thanks on behalf of all the volunteers from every brigade your gesture will touch.