There is so much that can be said about retirement. It gives us all an opportunity to focus on the things we’ve always wanted to do. But sometimes retirement leaves quite a few gaps. We miss that contact with our work mates. Or perhaps our work gave us a sense of purpose that we no longer have? Volunteering is one way we can fill these gaps and help a really good cause at the same time. And there are just so many good causes to choose from.
Just recently, I was talking to my friend Lindsay. He was telling me about a charity that he and his partner donate time to. It’s called BlazeAid. Lindsay says that even though they can work quite hard, they have a great time and meet a lot of wonderful people.
BlazeAid was founded in 2009 and grew from the ashes of the horrendous Black Saturday bushfires here in Victoria.
Kevin Butler and his wife Rhonda were farmers caught up in the fires at Kilmore. They lost several kilometres of fencing. And to keep their stock fenced in, they needed to rebuild as quickly as possible.
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A call went out to family and friends who quickly came to the rescue. But it wasn’t just about the fences. The support and encouragement given by this small band of people lifted the spirits of Kevin and Rhonda.
After realising the enormous extent of the fires and the damage caused, the couple set about recruiting more volunteers to rebuild the hundreds of kilometres of fencing destroyed. And BlazeAid was born.
People wanted to help in any way they could. Calls for equipment and materials were quickly answered. And it was likewise with the labour. Through social media, the plea went worldwide. People from all over began to incorporate a few weeks of volunteer work into their holidays. For month upon month, people arrived to not only rebuild the fences of the ravaged land, but to rekindle the spirits of those affected by the fires.
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BlazeAid grew. Tent cities also grew as neighbouring communities rallied to help with food and shelter for those not only affected by the fires, but also the volunteers there to help. Everyone pitched in to assist in any way they could. And like all volunteer work, firm friendships were made.
But BlazeAid didn’t stop there. The 2011 floods in Victoria affected hundreds of properties. BlazeAid once again came to the rescue. Then it was Cyclone Yasi in Queensland. And then more floods and fires in Victoria.
In 2013, there were 14 base camps throughout Victoria, Tasmania, NSW and Queensland. Over 3000 volunteers put in over 29,000 working days repairing and rebuilding fences burnt by fire or flattened by flood.
Kevin Butler says “These are amazing statistics, especially so because most of the hard work was done by semi-skilled retired people and grey nomads with basic tools.”
He goes on to say that these statistics do not include the thousands of hours put in by unmeasurable volunteer tasks including removing and repairing irrigation pipes, cleaning debris and mud from homes and sheds and even fruit trees in Queensland.
Nor does this tally include the countless hours put in by the local communities who add their support by cooking, cleaning, providing tools and equipment, facilities, bringing gear up to the bases etc. The list of help is just endless.
With the unpredictability of the Australian weather, we never know what or where or when. But there will always be burnt and flattened fences due to some disaster. You can be assured BlazeAid will again be on the ground with its sturdy band of volunteers – ready and willing to repair the fences and the spirits of those affected.