Moruya business owner Amanda Averay-Jones had never before seen a face cloth or tube of toothpaste elicit tears of gratitude. But when Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers were handed personal care kits – complete with personal thank you notes – after hours or days battling the Currowan Bushfire, many fought back tears.
Community members and businesses across the Far South Coast are showing their gratitude and support with by donating to, assembling and distributing Emergency Disaster Relief Care Kits to RFS volunteers and to residents evacuated due to bushfire threat.
For volunteers and evacuees, receiving a personal care kit – containing items including toiletries, face cloths, wipes, essential oils for wellbeing and handwritten notes from students or community members – equates to much more than the sum of its parts.
“There have been a few times when (recipients) have nearly had tears flowing with gratitude – you wouldn’t think a face cloth would become so important to someone,” Amanda says.
“For firies, it’s so refreshing for them to be able to wipe their faces when they’ve been out there battling the fires. And they really appreciate the ability to wipe their hands before they eat.
“(RFS volunteers) from out of town may have forgotten their toothbrush and toothpaste, or they might be staying somewhere where they don’t have shampoo or conditioner.”
For evacuees, seemingly small practicalities can have a large impact, Amanda says.
“The people affected by fires are loving being able to have a wash and not smell like bushfire,” she says. “And, to feel like they’re getting some love.”
The kits, designed in collaboration with RFS crew members and people affected by disaster, are an initiative of Wellness Advocates Natural Disaster Support (WANDS).
Amanda coordinates the South Coast operation, with coordinators also in Ulladulla, Canberra and Queanbeyan. With a band of volunteers, Amanda has managed the local delivery of around 500 kits to first responders, volunteers and evacuees. Nationally, more than 5000 kits have been assembled and approximately 2000 distributed so far.
“This team has delivered up to 500 kits across these areas, with more ready to go. Having these kits prepared and ready to distribute is vital in these situations,” Amanda says.
“We’ve managed to make and get kits into evacuation centres and to our firefighters from all sides of the fire.”
Around 25 volunteers attended a kit ‘packing day’ at Batemans Bay Soldiers Club recently, with community members craving a way to give back.
Volunteer packer Vicki Gock says: “I’m very happy to help in this small way. The RFS firefighters work so hard for our community. It’s a way of supporting our local community and saying thank you.”
Volunteer Robyn Moses says that in challenging times, small acts of kindness go a long way. “Everyone needs a little comfort in disaster,” she says.
As fires across the region continue to burn and spread, Amanda’s calling for more donations and assistance. Businesses in Batemans Bay, Mogo, Moruya and Narooma are drop-off points for care kit items. Visit the South Coast Essentials Facebook page for information.
The initiative’s next wave of support will be in the form of free massages for RFS volunteer crews and support staff. In addition, ‘care teams’ will be assembled to assist clean-up crews where needed.
Words by Kat McCarthy