Written by Raff – Aged 11
This Australian summer has been a bit of a shocker. Mostly because of a horrific fire season that’s been made worse by an ongoing drought and unusually warm conditions that expert research suggests are the result of climate change.
While there are fires still burning, I can’t help thinking about the brave firefighters and organisations and individuals doing so much to help people who have lost their homes, people who have lost family and friends and also our injured wildlife. And I feel like I should be doing more.
So, I started thinking and did a little research about the kind of things a kid like me could do to help aid Australia’s bushfire recovery. And it turns out there’s stacks.
From donating a little pocket money and planting a tree to travelling to support regional towns and businesses, here’s my list of ways kids (and their adults) can help.
1. Educate yourself
It’s not only grown ups who need to keep up to date with news. It’s also important for us kids to learn about the fires and the communities that have been affected by them, from reliable sources, so we can use that information to help and to do the right thing.
2. Educate others
Talk it up. Use the knowledge you’ve gained through solid research to teach others how they can help affected communities. If every noisy kid uses their voice to spread the word on what we can all do to help, regardless of age, imagine how much we can achieve.
3. If you’re old enough to use social media, use it for good
Not only can you share the word on the best charities and organisations to donate money to, you can let people from overseas know that making a trip to Australia is always a good idea by shutting down all the fake news and sharing all the good stuff about the many awesome places that are open for business.
4. If you’re not old enough to use social media, go old-school
If you’re looking for things kids can do to help Australia’s bushfire recovery and you don’t have social media, go old-school. My sister spent a whole week of school holidays hand drawing posters to encourage people to donate and help save koalas. She used a stack of old recycled paper and, with mum’s help, distributed them all over town. They’re all still there and she was stoked that some have been moved into prominent positions on community noticeboards. So a little act can make a difference. Pro tip: Don’t attempt to post them on the wall of the police station outside the PM’s House … in front of a patrolling police officer. But definitely hand the police officer one and let him decide whether he wants to put it up for you.
5. Donate some of your stuff
How excited would your parents be if you actually volunteered to clean up your room and clear out the stuff you no longer used or needed. Now, imagine how excited a kid who has lost everything would be if you donated your toys, clothes and books to them. This one is a win win for everyone. Just remember to donate via a reputable organisation like GIVIT who have the resources to distribute items directly to those most at need.
6. Support our firies
Can you imagine what a difference we could make if every kid donated just one week’s pocket money to our amazing volunteer fire fighters who have been risking their lives in the fires to save homes, wildlife and people? Seriously guys, what’s a few bucks between friends? You can, and should, donate here NSW Rural Fire Service ; VIC Country Fire Authority; SA Country Fire Service; QLD Rural Fire Brigades and WA Volunteer Fire Service
7. Help those who’ve lost their homes and love ones
Raise some money for the people who most need it via a lemonade or cupcake stand in your neighbourhood. We chose to sell some home grown veggies and a few jars of my special homemade kimchi to raise a few dollars for the awesome people at the Red Cross.
8. Help our wildlife
Love Aussie animals? Me too. So don’t forget to save a bit of pocket money to help out all our furry and feathered critters – from koalas and kangaroos and wombats to flying foxes and wild birds – who’ve been injured in the fires. Some of the best places to donate are The Rescue Collective and WIRES.
9. Adopt an animal
Why not take it even further and adopt an animal for yourself or as a gift for a friend to help some of our threatened species. We adopted wild koalas for our teachers for Christmas from Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and there are several other great charities offering you the chance to help a wild animal in care.
10. Visit an animal sanctuary
Help those amazing wildlife workers who are supporting and caring for our injured wildlife by visiting and supporting their facilities. Just a few of those providing housing and care to our injured wildlife include Australia Zoo, Taronga Zoo, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park and Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.
11. Leave out a little water
Leave out shallow bowls of water for animals and birds escaping from the fires and those dehydrated from heat and smoke.
12. Keep a rescue kit in your car.
Carry a cardboard box and towel in your car just in case you come across an injured animal that you can safely transport to the nearest vet (avoid snakes and other critters that might not be as grateful for the assist and instead report their location to WIRES so the experts can do their thing).
13. Encourage your parents to swap an overseas trip with a local one.
There’s never been a more important time to see Australia. Encourage your parents to swap an overseas trip to explore all the amazing places and experiences we have right here in our beautiful country instead. Many Australians rely on tourism for their livelihood, and 99% of the country hasn’t been affected by fires, so support them by exploring home. What about here or here or here?
14. Visit a fire affected town
Go one step further and skip town for a couple of days to support one of the many fire affected towns who rely on tourism for their livelihoods.
15. Skip breakfast
Wait, what? As if. What I mean is skip the buffet at your hotel and pop into a local cafe or restaurant instead to help spread the love and support local businesses that are struggling. Better still, support the hotel and the local cafes and have two breakfasts. You know you want to.
16. Travel light
Turn your local trip into a treat and stock up on new toys, new books and new clothes, and even produce and presents for friends from local community businesses.
17. Bring an empty esky
That way you can fill up on all the food and supplies you need from local supermarkets, farmers markets and farm gates to support them as they rebuild.
18. Get fruity
Is there anything more delicious than fruit picked straight from the vine or tree? Yep. Fruit picked straight from the vine or tree at local farms that rely on passing trade. While you’re there, fill your Esky full of all the shelves full of yummy jams and marinades.
19. Visit and support Indigenous communities and businesses
First Nations people are very connected to the land and the mistreatment and neglect of our country, and the lack of consideration of their centuries of knowledge when it comes to sustainably caring for it, has caused deep hurt. Support them. Listen to them. Learn from them. The ancient knowledge of their ancestors is the future of ours.
20. Support responsible tourism
We need to get hands on and help out for the long-term benefit of our people, our wildlife, and the environment that sustains us all. So we should try to support responsible tourism projects that assist in the long-term sustainability of communities and the local environment.
21. Plant a tree
The number of trees we have lost that produce oxygen, provide shelter for native wildlife, as well as absorbing planet warming carbon emissions from the atmosphere, is beyond my comprehension. We need trees. So plant one. But not just any tree. Plant a koala compatible eucalyptus tree. Uncle Google tells me some of the more common ones are Tallowood, Swamp Mahogany and Forest Red Gum (I’ll have to trust him as I’m no tree expert). Or plant a whole forest of them, like my amazing friend’s Narelle and Tiah.
If, like us, you live in an apartment and don’t have the space to plant one (I don’t think mum’s gonna approve of me growing a tree in our living room), just get someone like the Australian Koala Foundation or the Koala Hospital to plant one, or more, on your behalf.