11 things to do to help when you feel helpless

It’s easy to watch the news stories of devastation and loss during this time of crisis in Australia and to feel absolutely helpless.

“What can I do? What should I do? How can I help without being a burden or hinderance?”

Here is 11 simple and small tips that may help…

1. CULL YOUR CLOSET – Go into your closet and donate good condition clothing and footwear to your local charity. It doesn’t have to go to fire affected commuities directly for your donated items to make a difference. The money raised from them being sold will go to bushfire or drought affected communities, or those in vulnerable circumstances elsewhere in Australia.

2. PACK A MINI-BAG – Grab a backpack or handbag that you don’t use anymore and pop down to your local supermarket and fill it with personal care items for evacuees. Items you may wish to include are:
– shampoo and conditioner,
– soap,
– face wash,
– new socks and underpants,
– a hair brush,
– a small towel,
– a pair of thongs,
– some mascara, blush and foundation,
– toothpaste,
– toothbrush,
– Bandaids and simple pain medication,
– sanitary items,
– deodorant.
Many charities will accept these donations, however Bunnings and large supermarket chains have also been known to collect these too. Check online for a drop-off point near you.

3. MAKE A DONATION – Donate financially to a wildlife organisation to help them care for injured animals. Some options include WIRES’ Virtual Care Team, Animal Welfare League and the RSPCA.

4. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME – Spontaneously volunteer with a supporting agency. The Fire Services aren’t able to induct new volunteers until after the emergency is over. However, your local State Emergency Service, Australian Red Cross branch, Salvation Army team and RSCPA or Animal Welfare League may be a good option to help out. There are also many smaller, local charities that could do with some help. Even if you live a distance away from the impact area, you may be able to release someone with specialist skills to go and help if you put your hand up to help in your local area.

5. BE INFORMED – Read and/or listen to multiple credible news outlets and stay informed. There is a significant amount of misinformation that causes anxiety and stress when an emergency situation occurs. By staying up to date yourself and reading across sites, you can help minimise the spread of rumour and untruths. As a first point of call, ABC Emergency Broadcasting is the go-to radio station for up-to-date and relevant information on an emergency situation. Check your local listings for the frequency near you.

6. DOCUMENT THE SITUATION – If you’re in an area that is affected by an emergency, and it is safe to do so, take photos and videos. Waiting for the impact after you’ve done everything you are able to can feel like torture. Use the time to document what is happening around you, the time and the weather conditions. The information you gather may be used to help emergency services not only review the progress of the situation in the moment, but it can also help inform planning after the event so they can prepare for the next time something like this occurs. ABC Media often list an email address or give out a mobile number to text to so you can share your information and images with your local community. Posting on your social media accounts using a common hashtag can help emergency services gather situational awareness about your area.

7. LEARN FROM OTHERS – Not in the impact area? Get motivated and make a plan with your family in case this same thing happens to you. Spend time speaking with your neighbours and family members about what you would do in the situation and write it down. Use the momentum to clean your own gutters and put together an emergency preparedness kit. Learn from what you are seeing and hearing on the news and social media and make sure you are ready too. It will help emergency services if your place is ever under threat. Jump online to the Australian Red Cross, your local fire agency or state emergency service websites and download the Survival Plans to help guide your discussions.

8. CONSERVE WHAT YOU CAN– Between the extreme temperatures and the drought, essential things such as water and electricity can often be more like luxuries. Be mindful about the power and water you are using. Having air conditioners continually running and lights on throughout the day can overload an already taxed system, especially if the powerlines and sub-stations have been affected somewhere on the grid. You don’t need to completely stop using things unless directed to do so, instead be mindful of what you have and what you are using. Think of the images of the firefighter using a watering can to douse the edge of a grass fire – still use the water, but do so in moderation. Every little bit counts.

9. OFFER STORAGE – After the emergency has passed and people have found everything they can from what is left, they need a place to store it safely. If you have a garage or shed with some space, why not offer it to someone who needs a place to keep what they have left safe?

10. GRAB A RAFFLE TICKET – Buy the calendar, the Christmas card pack, the Easter basket raffle ticket or the cake at the cake stall. The next time there is a charity option for purchase, help out by buying one or more. Not only are your funds going to the charity of choice, but you’re also supporting the person who volunteered their time and efforts to stand out the front of the local shopping centre selling the tickets or items too. You’ll make them feel valued and appreciated. Consider it a 2-for-1 good deed!

11. BOOK A HOLIDAY – Most of the impact areas in this fire emergency are coastal tourist towns. They rely on holidaymakers to keep their businesses viable. Not only is summer the height of their busy season, but tourism operators will also likely lose the bookings they had in for the coming months too. These coastal towns need your funds to keep trading. Jump online and research/pre-book a holiday for 6-12 months time, when things get back up and running. Your holiday will directly help people get their lives and livelihoods back on track.

There are plenty of different options for you to donate financially via banks, GoFundMe pages and registered charities. For more information on the various charities and organisations you can support, you can find direct links in any of the three regularly updated articles below:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-01/bushfire-relief:-how-you-can-help-frontline-services/11835156

https://www.smh.com.au/national/here-s-how-you-can-help-australia-s-bushfire-victims-20200104-p53ot2.html

https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/bushfire-relief-how-you-can-help-those-in-need/news-story/a0476ac3538b8c373f281ea6be204421

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