Annie & Chris | Bushfire Recovery

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Annie & Chris | Bushfire Recovery

Earlier this month Habitat for Humanity South Australia mobilised volunteers in the Bushfire Recovery program to help Annie and Chris clear debris left after the fires.

When I arrived at Annie and Chris’s property in the Adelaide Hills, it was difficult to get an understanding of what had been lost. Habitat volunteers had arrived and were being briefed by Annie on what needed to be done to return their property to what it once was before the bushfires.

Annie was on a mission, and it was obvious we were in for a long day of hard work ahead.

We were there because not long ago, a fire had ripped up the hills, across dry land and trees and engulfed their home in flames. When I arrived at Annie and Chris’s property in the Adelaide Hills, it was difficult to get an understanding of what had been lost. Habitat volunteers had arrived and were being briefed by Annie on what needed to be done to return their property to what it once was before the bushfires.

Annie was on a mission, and it was obvious we were in for a long day of hard work ahead.

We were there because not long ago, a fire had ripped up the hills, across dry land and trees and engulfed their home in flames.

“This is how our family copes. We weren’t going to die in a hole.

“We even had a laugh that night as we told the kids ‘Well, I guess you’re not getting any presents this year for Christmas!’”

“However we quickly came to the realisation that we didn’t own anything. We don’t own a hat…shoes…. We just had what we were wearing that day. Going out in public was quite difficult initially. We’d carry garbage bags around as we received some donations of goods but had nothing to carry them in.”

They had some good news a couple of weeks later as the cat they had to leave behind, named Lolly, was found by a neighbour. Lolly had burnt paw pads and needed to stay in an animal hospital for 35 days.
In the weeks and months to come there was a lot of time to reflect on their situation.

“We don’t feel hard done by. There are so many others who lost a lot more. Our neighbours livelihood is their vineyards which were destroyed completely. Others who rely on the land for an income are really struggling.

Annie explained that they now run their business out of the shed that sits right next to where the house was, virtually untouched by flames. The business, now powered by a generator, has suffered, and the bills just keep coming and ‘they only get bigger.’

She started to list a few – such as the 150m trench they need to dig to get power back, and replacing fencing, that will cost in the tens of thousands. Even Lolly the cat’s bandages had to be replaced daily for $150 a pop.

The family moved quickly into ‘work mode’ and have been spending three days a week for the last two months working on the property.

“The clean-up is a much bigger job than the construction.”

It was very clear to me how tough Annie and her family are. The job they had to do to rebuild their lives wasn’t one they asked for, or expected, but they were getting on with it because that’s just what needed to be done.

Throughout her story, she showed emotion when talking about the kindness of strangers, like the Habitat volunteers who were with us that day.

“I’ve never met so many people willing to give up their time. It’s just unbelievable and it blows my mind. The manpower that Habitat has provided…the encouragement and support has been incredible. We can see it here today and without this it would take us so much longer to get back on our feet.

The progress we’ve seen today with the help of the volunteers has probably saved us two months of clean-up.”

Annie and Chris are now looking ahead with hope and positivity.

“We are closer to our neighbours than we were before. Also, the kindness and help of total strangers and organisations like Habitat for Humanity is amazing, so thank you.”

Every day is a fight, but today, for the first time in a long time, when I look at the property I am not looking at death. All I can see is new growth.”

Supporters like you should be proud, as the work of the volunteers is only made possible through your donations.