The very hands-on nature of Habitat NSW’s Bushfire Recovery Programme has been an unexpected pleasure for volunteer Kavanar, who is an architect and town planner.
“I have more experience at providing plans than actual hands on work,” she says. “But I love it. Gathering all the fallen branches and then burning them, and seeing the huge difference it makes to the property, is amazing. This is the closest to a big fire I have been in my experience. At first, I was quite scared but you can see how someone is keeping careful control over it, all the time. And last week I loved cutting the logs. I have never done anything like that in my life.”
Kavana, 28, who was born in India, has been in Australia for the past four years, studying then working. Pre-Covid, she had been employed at a local council and is currently doing freelance work for a firm of architects in America.
“For me, Sydney has been home and has been so warm and welcoming to me.
What happened last year with the fires was devastating. I feel really humbled to be able to be here and to be able to give something back to society, and contribute to helping these people who have been through so much.
“At the last volunteer day, the homeowner spoke so warmly about how our time is valued and respected. It felt very satisfying.
“I hadn’t been the Southern Highlands or Blue Mountains since the bushfires and it was a terrible shock, the first time back here, to see everything blackened or gone.
I had seen the pictures of the fires in December and to me it is just unimaginable to have been here, living going through that.
“I have now made it a point to come here every week if I can, because right now, I am working from home and my hours are very flexible.”