By: Clare Bruce
After 14 metres of floodwater receded from the Lismore and the Northern Rivers region in April 2022, support flooded in, in its place.
Volunteers came from around the nation to help residents with the overwhelming task of clearing out mud, salvaging furniture, and repairing damaged homes.
But as the months passed and the nation’s focus moved on, recovery work slowed to a crawl, leaving the burden of the clean-up to local volunteers – many of whom are flood-impacted themselves.
A recent study showed that nearly half of residents surveyed are still displaced from their homes now, living in sheds, tents, caravans or with friends or family.
Flood survivors continue to face unmet physical and emotional needs, living through a second winter of uncovered walls, with limited access to basic hygiene amenities. Many are making do with outdoor camp-style kitchen and bathroom arrangements.
Restoring More Than 30 Homes
That’s where Samaritan’s Purse has stepped in. The charity sent a team to work in the region throughout June and into July, to help with long-awaited repairs and restoration. The initiative was coordinated in partnership with the community-run charity, Resilient Lismore. The SP team, made up of retired tradespeople and other volunteers, have been tackling a wide range of jobs, from cleaning mud off walls, to installing flat-pack kitchens, yard work, plumbing and electrical work, as well as painting and other finishing touches for people who have already completed their own repairs.
So far, the team has completed restorative work in 30 homes and will continue to work across the region until July 10.
80-year-old homeowner, Faye, who tragically lost her daughter weeks after the flood and was left to look after a young foster child, was incredibly grateful for the work Samaritans Purse’s volunteers did over three days. They tended to her overgrown yard, repaired and dog-proofed her fencing, restored plumbing, and removed damaged asbestos walls.
“They’ve just done an amazing job, more than anyone could have hoped for,” Faye said. “They were just fantastic people. It wasn’t just like the physical blessing, all the work that was done, it was a real blessing from God.”
Dan Stephens, Australian Disaster Relief Manager said, “What we hear a lot of is, ‘Oh, this would’ve taken me a month to do myself, and you guys were able to knock it out in a day’, and that’s what we want to do. It’s that power in numbers and it’s the power of community.”
To volunteer or donate to the work of Samaritans Purse head to www.samaritanspurse.org.au.