How To Help Australia Wildfire Victims As The Blazes Continue To Burn
As we come off the high of the holidays here in the U.S., thousands of people and animals in Australia are struggling to stay safe amidst one of the worst wildfires the continent has experienced in decades. Lethal wildfires in Australia have been ravaging homes and wildlife since September, and unfortunately, they show no signs of stopping. Knowing how to help Australia's wildfire victims is more important now than ever, as January and February are shaping up to be some of the country's hottest months. And despite an all-hands-on-deck approach from firefighters in Australia (and firefighting help from other countries, including the United States), authorities are still struggling to keep the blazing fires under control.
The bush fire season in Australia has already been devastating. According to CNN, there have been at least 17 deaths reported so far as a result of the wildfires, and nearly a thousand houses have been destroyed in New South Wales alone (which is being hit particularly hard by the disaster, although the entire nation is affected). Whole towns have been decimated by the fires, and as a result, there's also hazardous air quality reports and major devastation to wild animal populations — including koalas, who have already lost around a third of their habitat in NSW, Australian Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley told ABC's AM radio show on Dec. 27.
If you want to help make a difference for the victims of Australia's wildfires, there are lots of ways you can give your time and resources to offer some relief during this crisis. Check out a few ways you can help.
Stay Informed On The Updates
The first step to making a difference for the victims of Australia's wildfires is staying informed with up-to-date information on the situation they're facing. This way, you stay in the know, and are the first to be aware of any changes in the status of a situation, which will better arm you with knowledge when it comes to helping out. Here are a few ways to stay in the loop:
- Follow the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service on Twitter for local updates on news, traffic and road closures, warnings and evacuations, and impact assessments that are affecting the regions where fires are still blazing. You can also follow the #bushfire hashtag on Twitter for news on the fires from around the globe.
- Checking for updates on your preferred international news sources is helpful, too, as many outlets are updating their stories. For example, BBC News has a running list of updated stories on the Australian fires, and both The New York Times and CNN have areas of their sites devoted to Australian news updates, too.
Donate Money To Organizations Helping Victims
There are many organizations and charities well-equipped to help people in times of disaster — but of course, they need money to make their services possible. If you're able to donate money to helping victims of Australia's fires, there are plenty of options that ensure your money will go directly to making a difference. Below are a few options — just be sure to check on the legitimacy of any organization before donating by cross-checking them using a reputable service like CharityWatch.com.
- The Salvation Army and Australian Red Cross are two well-respected humanitarian nonprofits that are working to help local communities devastated by the bush fires. Click on the links above to see their donation pages and find out what your money is funding.
- You can also donate directly to help fund local fire services and support the many volunteer firefighters who give their time (and sometimes, sadly, their lives) to help fight these blazes. Click here to donate money to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
Donate Items To People In Need
While giving money to credited organizations makes a difference, there are also many people who have lost everything in Australia's fires and are seeking donations of items that you may already have. For example, organization Givit has a running list of items that are in high demand for victims of the fires. Check out the list and how to donate here, and take a look at some of the items people need:
- Food vouchers
- Shipping containers
- Water tanks
- Generators and fuel
Raise Awareness On Social Media
It's OK if you don't have the means to give a donation to one of the organizations supporting victims of the wildfires. You can still raise awareness and help raise much-needed funds by sharing information on your social media pages.
- Sharing donation pages and campaigns on your social media pages makes it easier for your friends, family, and professional network to easily access ways that they can help and donate resources. Check out some of the organizations helping Australian fire victims and share their information across your social channels.
- The Red Cross of Australia has an online register designed to help reunite people with their families and loved ones after having been separated in a disaster. If you know anyone in Australia, it's worth it to share this link on the chance that someone needs assistance locating missing persons.
Don't Forget About The Animals
It's not just humans who are losing their homes and family members. Animals and their habitats are suffering greatly as a result of the Australian wildfires. So far, 500 million animals (including mammals, birds, and reptiles) have already been killed due to the fires, according to Sydney University. Koala populations in particular are being hit hard, with nearly a third of the koala population of NSW having potentially lost their lives, according to CNN. Here are some ways to help animals:
- Check out this guide to helping Australian wildlife affected by the fires, released by WIRES (which stands for NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.), Australia's largest wildlife rescue organization.
- Koalas and their habitat are being decimated by the fires in NSW. Donate or share GoFundMe pages run by accredited organizations to help them, such as this fundraiser by Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.
- The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will be working to restore homes, habitats, and ecosystems for animals that were destroyed in the fires. Click here to donate or share the page on social media. You can also donate to WIRES' emergency fund for animals by clicking here.
If You're In The Area, Volunteer To Help In Person
Most of the items on this list can be done from anywhere in the world, but if you happen to live in Australia and are in a position to help victims of the fire yourself, consider looking into volunteer opportunities that can help change lives.
- According to ABC Australia, the Red Cross says it "does not send volunteers into emergency situations unless they've passed checks and completed training," but encourages people to sign up to go through training to be of service in the future. That said, searching for community Facebook groups for more local opportunities would be a generous and helpful use of your time. There may be local drives, events, or services where volunteers could make a difference.
- If you prefer to volunteer to help animals in NSW, WIRES animal rescue organization is always looking for people who are willing to train to become volunteer wildlife rescuers and carers. Click here to find out more about their training program and opportunities to rescue and care for animals who have been impacted by the fires.