In the wake of the recent bushfire crisis there has been no shortage of media attention surrounding delays in relief and support from both Government and non-Government organisations getting to those affected.
Fortunately for the Mid North Coast we have amazing organisations such as Lions Clubs and Rotary Clubs to step in with help where it is most needed. The fight against the flames may be over but the battle to restore the lives of those who have lost so much is still raging. Just as well the Lions District Governor leading the charge is a man who is use to a fight.
Bill Shepherd, a prominent member of the Nambucca Valley veterans community with 44-years Army service which includes the Vietnam War and eight years as the Nambucca Heads RSL Sub Branch President, the Lions District Governor.
The fight against the flames may be over but the battle to restore the lives of those who have lost so much is still raging. Just as well the Lions District Governor leading the charge is a man who is use to a fight.
For the last few months Bill has been on the road across a district that goes from Yamba in the North, Nabiac in the South and Inverell and In the West, assisting 18 hardworking Lions Clubs do what they do best; help the community.
The amount of funds that Lions have been able to direct to those affected and the speed in which it has been delivered is truly remarkable. The Lions swung into action during what Bill Shepherd describes as 'the survival period' when the fires were still burning.
The Lions were firstly assisting at evacuation centres and were immediately able to access emergency grants from Lions Clubs International Foundation to purchase food, water and essential items for those affected. With initial assistance dealt with the districts Lions Clubs then moved into the 'assessment mode' where they spoke to people to determine what their specific needs were.
One of the major requirements was the replacement of water tanks, including the need to fill them with water. International and Australian Lions Clubs were able to produce more than $200,000 to enable the district Lions Clubs to purchase 22 water tanks, installed within two weeks, and commence an ongoing water tank replacement program that is able to react as the need is identified.
The Lions also identified that many of the tanks that survived the fire had become contaminated with ash so they purchased bottled water so people would have clean drinking water over the Christmas period. The water tank initiative and other projects that individual Lions Clubs across the district are working on have been drawing over $500,000 that has been supplied by individual Lions Clubs, Lions Clubs International Foundation and generous donations from the public. It is worth noting that, before the fires the Lions had provided over a million dollars to drought relief in the region.
Lions have been able to work in conjunction with Blaze Aid and Rubicon by providing materials for farm fencing, particularly in the Nambucca Valley, so that farmers who lost fences in the fires could contain their livestock and therefore their livelihood.
Bill added that the Lions have been able to replace 'back to school' supplies that many families lost in the fires and in some cases they were able to replace destroyed computers. Thankfully many students had important work stored in the cloud. I asked Bill what it was that Lions need most to continue with their vital work. He said it was new members for their Lions Clubs.
Many of the Lions Clubs in the district are small and are very much feeling the pressure of the last few months. Bill pointed out the work the Lions are doing for fire affected communities and individuals is a marathon, not a sprint, and envisages that Lions will be hard at it for at least two years before things are back to normal.
In the Nambucca Valley alone there are 85 more water tanks on order and requiring to be installed. The nature of the work the Lions are doing is so vital to the affected areas that Bill Shepherd and his counterpart from the South Coast of NSW have been appointed to the Office of Emergency Management Volunteer Committee.
The Lions have been able to cut through red tape and ensure support gets out quickly. Bill stressed if a member of the public donates money and requests the money stays in the district then that is just what happens and none of it is used for administration fees. Bill Shepherd also knows of Lions who were in the right place to lend a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on when people had almost given up hope. As a community we are truly blessed we have organisations like the Lions Clubs who stand tall in a crisis. Thanks Lions for all that you do.
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