Wild bush fires December 2019 – January 2020

Tired fireman sitting on the ground

The global media has reported extensively on the devastating death and destruction of people, homes and wildlife due to the wild bush fires in Australia during December 2019 and January 2020.

The rebuilding process for and by the impacted victims must start now, and this process will take years to complete. 

We are a charity of difference as we believe one can’t understand peoples pain and needs unless you’re in their position; hence we go out to the affected areas and personally identify the needs. 

Kangaroo Island

One Light Charity Foundation “OLC” sent a team lead by Director Lee Geldenhuys to Kangaroo Island to assess and prioritise the projects that are most likely to benefit the Community on a sustainable basis.

The statistics supplied by the team reveals the following destruction on Kangaroo Island:

 A staggering 25 000 koalas and other wildlife killed

· 82 Homes destroyed

· two people killed

· 100 000 sheep killed

· 155,000 hectares (600 square miles) of the Island has been consumed by fires, calling it “an ecological tragedy”.

· Hundreds of buildings damaged

· Hitting the tourism and farming industry very hard

 The people are broken

OLC experienced the people’s pain first hand; one doesn’t understand the needs and discomfort until you’re on the ground amongst the victims. Some of the people have lost everything; they are broken. When calamity hits, the media and everyone is there. Still, the moment it’s over, everyone leaves. But this is the time when people need help: not only financially but also emotionally.

Stokes Bay

The worst affected area apart from the Flinders National Park is an area called “Stokes Bay”. Here, just about the whole Community lost their homes, thousands of livestock and their Community Centre. 

We identified the following projects as priorities that require funding support. Please note that the government, larger charities and international donors assist other projects. They are not included in the plans below.

 Kangaroo Island garlic grower, Shane Leahy

 

The shed on his property, housing his business – KI Fresh Garlic -survived by pure chance, as did his dogs Socks, Lucy and her seven puppies.

Shane recently joined the Parndana CFS brigade, and he’s been out fighting fires across Kangaroo Island for the past month.

But there was no time for rest or reflection at the charred ruins of his home on January 3, 2020.

The fires were still raging, so the farmer, wool classer and firefighter got straight back on the fire truck and continued the fight, trying to prevent others suffering the same fate.

The far-reaching consequences of the fire on his own life would have to wait for the crisis to pass.

He found a bed for a few hours each night, either with mates or at the Parndana Country Fire Services station, and continued working from dawn until midnight, battling the blazes which still threatened homes and property across the western half of the Island.

Stokes Bay Community Hall (Incorporated Association, August 1960)

One Light Charity's Director standing with people of the Stokes Bay Community next to the hall burned down by the bushfires

Lee visiting the Stoekes Bay Community hALL

 

The Stokes Bay Hall is the heartbeat of the Community. It is where the people get together, play sports and go to church. This Hall has been around for 60 years and fitted with a new kitchen just before the Bushfires.

Black Rabbit Architects (the company appointed) estimates the cost to rebuild the Community Centre somewhere around $350 000 – $500 000. The rebuilding plans will include a Shed to house the CFS (Country Fire Services ), a Fire engine- to ensure the Community is never trapped without a fire truck again and equipment.

The Building is insured for $150 000 

So far OLC has pledged $30 000 to kick start the project. Louise is the Stokes Bay Chaplin and will help with the accountability of how the funds will be applied. The Community Centre is an incorporated organisation, and the land belongs to the Community, not counsel.

Adopt a sheep /Stock farmer Project

Dead lamb stock thrown into a ditch

The Stanton family are stock farmers near Stokes Bay. They lost the most: their house, the woolshed, a special stud Ram bought for breeding purposes and 4,000 sheep.

Mr Stanton told us that the lambs knew the fire was coming. They all assembled in a circle. Stanton had to dig deep trenches to bury all the dead animals.

The Stokes Bay Community was only expecting the fires the next day, but the wind turned. Stanton’s son fighting the fire in another area warned everyone that it was on its way and that they should get out. (A Miracle phone call, because somehow, he got through on his mobile even though the network towers had burnt down) … It wasn’t their time to die. It looked like the “exodus” with everyone trying to get out, and the fires behind them. On this road, a father and son got trapped and tragically killed by the flames.

Currently, most farmers who lost their homes have nowhere to live, some of them live in containers, the lucky ones have caravans. Stanton says that shortly after the bushfires, the rain came. People, supporters and donors lost interest, and they feel alone and isolated. The insurance companies are taking a while to payout. Meanwhile, they are without homes or an income. Mr Stanton says he will never be able to replace the stock that he lost.

Opportunity to Donor

The Stanton family could be supported every month with funds or one lump sum to help them survive until their insurance pays out.

Personal message

One Light Charity Foundation's Director Lee Geldenhuys cuddling a Koala

Lee Geldenhuys

“I took a few videos and pictures of our time on the Island and want to acknowledge, honour and thank all the local and international donors.

We have to put the past behind us and press forward, embrace the new. I believe that revival is coming to Kangaroo Island. 

A few things that stood out for me during my visit: 

We went to a Vineyard severely damaged by fire. I listened to all the statistics of re-growth of between 2-3 yrs, restoration etc. But when we cut through a vine, looking dead on the outside, we could already see the signs of re-growth.

The second was a small Community Centre (Stokes Bay) Building that had burnt down. Inside was a Christmas Tree, totally unharmed.

I was also blessed to meet the local Uniting, Minister Louis. She also lost everything (the family farm where she grew up, her home and livestock) but her faith and fighting spirit is so healthy. She will be involved in overseeing most of what OLC (One Light Charity) does there now and in the future.

I am looking forward to reuniting with all the beautiful people that we met. I was particularly careful with your donations, designated to the Bush Fire relief and we decided to make donations in tranches. We are planning our next Kangaroo Island visit and will offer more assistance as soon as the COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.”

Ways to support Kangaroo Island

  • Support local SME’s, buy online.
  • Support Kangaroo Island tourism and book your next holiday on the Island.
  • Donate