It’s been over a year since floods devastated eastern parts of Australia, and many people remain displaced.
But a group of volunteers is working overtime in NSW’s Northern Rivers region to get people back in their homes.
Last month, volunteers from Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse arrived in the embattled region to help those who are still suffering.
The volunteers, which include retired tradespeople, have teamed up with the charity Resilient Lismore to provide invaluable support to residents.
One elderly resident, Faye, whose daughter died in the aftermath of the floods, leaving behind a young foster son, had parts of her home repaired and maintained by the volunteers.
That included gardening work on her overgrown yard, repairing fencing and plumbing, and removing asbestos.
“They’ve just done an amazing job, more than anyone could have hoped for,” Faye said.
“They were just fantastic people. It wasn’t just like the physical blessing, all the work that was done – it was a real blessing from God.”
“It wasn’t just like the physical blessing, all the work that was done – it was a real blessing from God,” – Faye, Lismore resident
“Repair to Return”
Other work that the volunteers have undertaken includes cleaning mud off walls, installing kitchens, electrical work, and painting.
Since June 1, Samaritan’s Purse have worked on at least 30 homes in the area and will remain in the Northern Rivers region until July 10.
“Our objective is to ‘Repair to Return’,” Robyn Kelly, the operations co-ordinator at Resilient Lismore, said.
That initiative has seen almost 100 homes returned to a habitable space.
“And that includes homes that are warm, secure, safe and have basic sanitation,” Ms Kelly said.
“A lot of these homes have still got no toilets, bathrooms, people are still using buckets, so that’s a major objective to get these jobs done.”
Power in numbers
The residents have been overwhelmed by the response, according to Dan Stephens, Samaritan Purse’s Australian Disaster Response Manager.
“What we hear a lot of is, ‘Oh, this would’ve taken me a month to do myself, and you guys were able to knock it out in a day’,” he said.
“And that’s what we want to do. It’s that power in numbers and it’s the power of community.
“This is one of the first times in disaster relief work that volunteers have been able to take their professional skills and apply them to the context of helping people. They’re putting stuff back in as opposed to ripping it out.”
For more information, or to volunteer/donate visit samaritanspurse.org.au.