By Toni Byrne
It was a dilemma facing millions when the bushfires hit our towns and bush lands. What can we do? I heard this so much that I decided to ask a priest in Narooma, Fr Joe, what help was needed right now. He had a single mum with three children who had lost their home, so my family and friends joined together, as we felt that supporting one family was the best thing to do. I contacted the shoe shop in Narooma and they supplied shoes which I paid for electronically. I contacted the optometrist and asked her to supply glasses to the six yr old. Our plan was to help the small businesses in the towns too. Fr Joe then asked if we could help another family with three children, who had also lost their home.
I rang the schools to ask about uniforms and they told me they had 11 families who’d lost everything and could we help. Of course I said yes. $50 bought a school backpack fully outfitted. People forget that the children not only lose their shoes, clothes, toys and school equipment, but things like lunchboxes and drink bottles. Friends bought backpacks, a couple of teenagers bought an extra backpack each with their Christmas money and filled them as they did their own, then we bought shoes for all these children. That has snowballed as most of the children ran out of their homes in thongs.
The schools feel that it is important to give these children a sense of normalcy, so we are providing school shorts and skirts because the government apparently is providing shirts only.
We sent off 19 backpacks and we bought handbags for the mums and backpacks for the dads and filled them with toiletries and everyday goods so that they also felt loved. My grandchildren and neighbours' children helped sort and pack and they wrote a note for each person receiving the bags. My lounge room looked like a storage facility. And although it looked a lot, it was really such a small thing to do.
There are small schools all over NSW that have families who’ve lost everything. Let’s hope that they start receiving the money that has been so generously donated.