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Volunteers to the rescue


A story from Towamba and surrounding areas in NSW reflecting on life in October 2020.

Communities are capable of so much after a disaster. Sometimes it just takes a bit of connection.

“The model is to identify where there is a lack of services or resources, be it dealing with drought or flood or fire,” explained Glenn Price, Founder and CEO of Connecting Communities Australia (CCA).

“We then source funding and volunteers. We deliver the program and then measure the outcome. That’s the program,” Glenn said.

CCA co-designs relief programs with regional and remote communities. They help with the specific things communities need, and promote resilience in the face of the changing climate, declining infrastructure, and endemic mental health concerns.

In October, CCA volunteers delivered a range of projects in the Bega Valley Shire on the south coast of NSW to communities impacted by the Black Summer bushfires.

“We worked in three small communities: Wonboyn, Towamba and Kiah. There is a small town at Wonboyn, there’s really no town in Kiah and there’s a collection of houses in one place in Towamba but the community spreads for a number of kilometres around that area,” said Glenn.

“Those that needed help were identified through regular meetings with our partners: Headspace, local council, the National Bushfire Recovery Officers as well as Services NSW, Catholic Relief, Rotary, and Lions – it’s unbelievable,” said Glenn.  “We work with locals to figure out what gaps have been left after the initial recovery programs come and go.”

One of the projects was building a community space with a BBQ area and seating at Towamba. “The team did a wonderful job. It’s really creating a community space where the community can sit and watch their kids play. We are putting a big shade cloth over the play equipment and also putting in a basketball hoop for the teenagers so people can sit back and have a steak and a cuppa and watch their kids play.”

Glenn says the volunteers came from the NSW north coast and Sydney, but people also came from further afield across the state. They even had interest from people in Queensland and Victoria, but they were not able to travel because of COVID. Many of them are in their 50s and 60s who are still active and want to do something to help.

“What actually thrilled me was we had a group of 15 and 16-year olds who came along with several families,” he said. “I think young people want to do something and they just need to be shown how. It was really lovely. So nice to see.”

Glenn asked the local Rotary Club to help with feeding the volunteers. “They organised the whole thing - catering for 45 people for two weeks and there’s probably seven different community groups contributing to that,” he said.

And it was quite a menu: Breakfast provided and sandwiches at lunch. All delivered each day. Dinner was either a BBQ or lasagna or curries or even paella one night.

“They’re incredible, that’s the community side of it that’s been so powerful,” said Glenn.

You can find out more about CCA at www.connectingcommunitiesaustralia.com.au