As Spring arrives in the midst of a global pandemic, which has brought the world to its knees, the Australian bushfires of December 2019 and January 2020, seem a distant memory. It is hard to believe that only seven months ago Australia was experiencing one of its most horrific bushfire seasons on record, with many families and communities having lost loved ones and vast areas of bushland and property destroyed. Many living in these bushfire-affected communities are still in the process of rebuilding whilst grappling with the impact of COVID-19.
As we outlined in our January update (read here) we are thankful for your generosity which enabled us as a global church to raise AUD$1.383 million. These funds were directly distributed through key and trusted organisations, who were official first responders on the ground. The following is an update from a number of them on the impact your contribution has made.
“Thank you so much for the support that Hillsong has given The Salvation Army with the donation of AUD$683,000 towards our Bushfire Disaster Appeal. The generosity of your congregations has been overwhelming! Your contribution has helped us equip our frontline workers to provide for people and families impacted.
In total, The Salvation Army Bushfire Disaster Appeal raised over $41 Million in donations to help people devastated by the horrific bushfires. When you support the Salvos during disaster you are not only supporting people and communities in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, but also with ongoing financial and emotional relief as people rebuild their lives. As at July 2020 more than $25 million in direct financial assistance has been distributed to help nearly 12,000 Australians. Salvation Army case workers are still offering financial support of around 200 cases per week, and the balance of the funds are being committed for long-term recovery and rebuilding.
The Salvation Army is thankful for the partnership we have with Hillsong and we know that it is forged in the love we have for God’s creation, his people and his kingdom.”
“Thanks to the support of Hillsong, we were able to respond quickly during the bushfire crisis. Right after the fires had damaged much of the New South Wales South Coast, Foodbank started distributing water, fresh produce, meat and groceries to hungry families. These communities had lost family members, homes and livelihoods due to the fires, and it is thanks to you that they were able to have nourishing food, water and personal hygiene items in their time of need.
Hillsong’s $200,000 donation ($1 donated, equates to $6 worth of supplies due to Foodbank’s partnerships within Government, Transportation, Food and Grocery sectors) enabled us to provide an estimated $1.2 million worth of food and essential supplies to quickly support this community that had lost so much.
In amongst the stories of heartbreak during the bushfire crisis, there were many of courage and gratitude, we will never forget Belinda, a South Coast resident who had lost her home, share with us the impact of your support: “When the food turned up there was hope.”
From the NSW South Coast town of Kiah, Phillip was one of the Rural Fire Service fire fighters on the front line trying to save homes and lives. Like far too many Australians caught up in this summer’s devasting fires Phillip lost his own home, and only just escaped with his life. “In just half a minute, the structures I was protecting were enveloped in flames. It was a tempest of just unimaginable proportions,” said Phillip. The day after the fire took his home, Phillip had help from Foodbank. We’re all having difficulty with just day to day living – we’ve lost the things that make a home. Simple things like receiving food is an important part of rebuilding our lives,” he said.
As you would expect the road to recovery for these communities will be long. Communities just like Cobargo and Kiah are reliant on continuing food relief and families like Phillip’s still benefit from your kindness. So far 473,000 kilos of food and groceries have been delivered to bushfire affected areas.”
National Fire Services
We especially wanted to provide support to volunteer firefighters who willingly gave up their time to be first responders, with tragically a number of them losing their lives on the frontlines to save others. Hillsong Church contributed $300,000 to the National Fire Services and distributed it equally across the four states that were most severely affected by the fires. These included NSW Rural Fire Service families of deceased firefighters; Queensland Rural Fire Service fund, South Australian Country Fire Service volunteers and Volunteer Firefighter Welfare Fund.
To help support local community recovery, our Hillsong Global Bushfire Appeal donated AUD$200,000 to BlazeAid, a volunteer-based organisation that helps families and individuals in rural Australia affected by natural disasters.
BlazeAid is currently operating in over 20 sites where volunteers work on fire-affected properties helping to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. BlazeAid purchases all the fencing materials with a constant and standing supply at every one of their BlazeAid bases that are allocated to farmers according to need. As well as erecting thousands of kilometres of fencing, BlazeAid now also provides a grants program through The Grasseeds Reestablishment After Fires Funding Initiative (GRAFFI) to help farmers with recovery of pastures lost in the fires.
The bushfire-affected landscape across the country is certainly in the process of healing, with new foliage emerging from blackened trees, plants and earth. Yet we are very mindful that it is still a long road of recovery ahead for the families and individuals in the communities impacted. We are extremely grateful for these organisations we have supported, who have stood the test of time and are well equipped to lend their strength in the ongoing efforts to rebuild lives and communities.
Thank you again to all who donated to this appeal. Your donations brought hope in crisis and recovery.