The New York TimesJan 07, 2020 13:47:36 IST
Australians are reeling from the hundreds of devastating fires sweeping through parts of the country.
Since October, the wildfires have scorched millions of acres of land and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. At least 24 people have died. With people displaced and wildlife populations gutted, here are ways to help.
Australia Fires: How to help
— Australian Red Cross
The Australian Red Cross is accepting donations to its Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund, which has helped to send 1,285 staff members and volunteers to communities affected by the fires and to provide support to displaced people sheltering in more than 69 evacuation and recovery centers. The Red Cross also provides emergency grants to help people cover their immediate needs.
There are other ways to help if you cannot donate money. The Red Cross says clothing and household goods can be given to Red Cross-affiliated shops, or suggests holding garage sales or fundraising events. Volunteering roles are also possible. After training, volunteers are deployed to fill emergency roles.
GIVIT is an Australian organization that matches donated goods with items that are specifically requested by victims of the fires. People have asked for things like car batteries, fence posts and gas pumps.
— Salvation Army Australia
Like other organizations, the Salvation Army advises donors to send money instead of goods because of the logistical difficulties of storing and distributing goods in areas affected by disasters. Donations are funneled to various forms of assistance, including mental health support and housing.
“Financial donations also allow residents the opportunity to make their own choices and inject much-needed funds into local economies and businesses, helping communities recover sooner,” the organization says.
— St Vincent de Paul Society
The lay Catholic organization has more than 60,000 members and volunteers who assist people in need across Australia. Its bush fire appeal designates how far specific financial amounts can go, and brings home the reality of how the disaster has upended the lives of the dispossessed: 50 Australian dollars (about $35) can provide food for a displaced family; AU$150 ($105) can help stave off bills; and AU$300 ($208) can help clothe a fleeing family that had to leave behind their belongings.
— NSW Rural Fire Service
Firefighters and community workers in rural fire brigades are in the thick of it. The fire service has a map that is regularly updated, showing clusters of fire spots stretching along a swath of the country’s southeast coast. Donations are directed to emergency efforts and nonemergency community work.
Australia Fires: Celebrities draw attention to climate change
The devastating start to the fire season in Australia has confirmed the predictions of scientists that the country’s bush fires will become more frequent and more intense as climate change worsens.
Hollywood has long had ties to Australia, and in recent weeks, stars have been using their celebrity megaphones in pleas for help. Russell Crowe did not attend the Golden Globes in Los Angeles on Sunday after fire damaged his sprawling property in Coffs Harbour, about 300 miles from Sydney. In prepared remarks after he won a best actor award, he blamed the events on climate change.
“Make no mistake. The tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based,” said Jennifer Aniston, reading a message from the Australian actor, who portrayed media titan Roger Ailes in a Showtime series.
At the Globes, too, Cate Blanchett thanked volunteer firefighters. “When one country is facing a climate disaster, we are all facing a climate disaster,” she said. And Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who won a best actress award for the show “Fleabag,” vowed to auction off her couture suit, which was created by Australian designers Ralph & Russo, and donate the money raised to fire relief.
Other celebrities posted pleas for help on social media. Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban, donated $500,000 to volunteer firefighters and urged followers on Instagram to help. Margot Robbie also posted on Instagram, asking fans to donate money online.
Australia Fires: Wildlife rescue efforts
— Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
The hospital has a GoFundMe appeal for its work with the National Parks and Wildlife Service searching for koalas in the Port Macquarie area. At least 31 koalas have been brought to the hospital from several fire grounds, the hospital’s appeal says. More than $4 million in donations have been accrued so far. The money has enabled the organization to purchase a vehicle to distribute water and to set up drinking water stations in areas affected by the fires, especially in New South Wales. It has also enabled the organization to expand its breeding program.
— RSPCA New South Wales
Funds from the organization’s bush fire appeal will support its work at evacuation centers in northern New South Wales and other areas. Once fire zones are cleared, its inspectors will enter those areas to assess how to help any injured animals.
— Australian Koala Foundation
Donations can be made through its website.
— Koalas in Care Inc.
The nonprofit accepts funds for its work. It assists about 65 koalas every year, but the bush fire situation is “one that we have never experienced on such an enormous scale.”
— World Wildlife Fund
At least 350 koalas have died in the fires and more have been injured or burned, according to figures from the group. Donations go to medical treatment and planting trees for koalas.
The most affected state, New South Wales, which includes Sydney, Australia’s largest city, is having its worst fire season in 20 years.
WIRES, or the NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc., is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization. Donations can be made online, by telephone and through Facebook and PayPal.
Australia Fires: Crowdfunding campaigns
— Facebook and GoFundMe
Several people have organized fundraisers on social media or GoFundMe pages to help people in need. Celeste Barber, an actor and comedian, started a fundraiser on Facebook for The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund. It has already generated more than $26 million. Dacre Montgomery, who starred in Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” started a GoFundMe page. The money raised, which tallies more than $250,000, is earmarked for the Australian Red Cross.
Airbnb is offering free temporary housing for the displaced in homes in New South Wales, south of Sydney, and in Melbourne and its suburbs.
Christine Hauser and Laura M. Holson. c.2020 The New York Times Company
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