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BlazeAid: How to lend a hand

Founded in 2009 after the Black Saturday fires that raged through Victoria, BlazeAid is a volunteer-based rural aid program that works tirelessly to help rural communities and farmers recover after natural disasters, including fires and floods.

Setting up basecamps all over Australia, as and where need demands, BlazeAid volunteers help rebuild fences or other structures that have been damaged or destroyed in natural disasters. Entirely volunteer-based, this organisation was inspired by the success that Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, experienced following Black Saturday.

Needing quick assistance to secure their livestock, the Butlers called for aid from family, friends, and volunteers to rebuild their fences – and within a week, a job that would have taken a couple of months was completed. 

BlazeAid’s assistance to these rural communities has and continues to be incredibly important, with many of those who face losses having done so for the second or third time. By lending a hand in the most Aussie way, volunteers assist in raising spirits within these communities as well as fences. Volunteers have come from all over Australia and the world, rebuilding thousands upon thousands of kilometres worth of fencing. 

 

WHAT TO KNOW 

Perfect for those that are travelling around Australia and wanting to lend a hand – whether it be for a day, a week or a month –  no experience is needed to volunteer with BlazeAid. Simply head to the website to find a basecamp suited to you or your travels, and contact the camp coordinator a day or so before you arrive.

BlazeAid provides all volunteers with a site to set up their tent, caravan or motorhome, and supplies toilets, hot showers, all meals and PPE gear. Teams go out seven days a week, but volunteers are encouraged to take a day or two off when volunteering for an extended time. 

Every camp is run a bit differently (important to note for those considering camp-hopping throughout their travels). If you have pets, check in with the camp coordinator before bringing them. 

BlazeAid’s long-term volunteers are made up predominantly of volunteers in their 50s and 60s, with others ranging from teens to their 80s. The minimum age to volunteer is 12 years old, and anyone under the age of 18 must be supervised by a responsible adult. All volunteers must be able to follow instructions and work independently. Many properties are hilly or steep, so all volunteers should speak with their camp coordinator and ensure they are suited to the type of work. 

Conditions range from property to property, but volunteers will be working with wire and other debris, so it is always advised to make sure your tetanus injection is up to date before joining a base camp. It is strongly advised that all volunteers have Ambulance Cover. BlazeAid has Volunteer Insurance (not WorkCover) for incidents that occur while volunteers are working; however, ambulances are not covered by this. 

While helping rebuild fences is at the heart of BlazeAid’s mission, if you are unable to assist with this work, there are often other jobs to be completed around the basecamp, such as cleaning, catering, managing the tool shed and so on.

 

HOW TO HELP

BlazeAid’s list of current camps can be found online. www.blazeaid.com/current-camps/.
Remember to check here for further information – such as which are accepting volunteers and the contact information for camp coordinators – before arriving! Single or small parties should call or email the coordinator a day or so before arriving, but for larger groups, it is best to give more notice. 

For those who want to help but cannot visit a base camp, there are many ways to lend a hand. BlazeAid relies upon donations, all of which goes directly to helping rural landowners and communities. From helping pay for fencing tools and equipment, the safety gear used by volunteers, and general running costs, to tool maintenance, to supplying these very items, there are countless ways to chip into this commendable organisation. For more information on how to donate, email blazeaid.donations@gmail.com, or visit the website www.blazeaid.com.au

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