NSW Bushfire Victims Turn To Crowdfunding After Losing Everything
Heartbroken families affected by the NSW bushfires have turned to crowdfunding for help to get their lives back on track, and the generosity of Aussies so far has been astounding.
In the small community of Wytaliba near Glen Innes, residents covered themselves with wet blankets and watched everything they own turn to ashes from their backyards.
Some residents fled to the local cricket pitch and watched as the fire raged on around them.
Others said they took cover in the local bakery as fire lapped at the walls.
25-year-old university student Cerene Lowe grew up in the town. Her family home was destroyed on Friday.
"The house that I was born in, that my mother built by hand was destroyed. The community is so small and we're like family," Lowe said.
"The neighbours would give you the clothes on their back. Most people were trying to save their neighbours houses while their own homes were gone," she said.
The scale of destruction was horrific and two Wytaliba residents George Nole and Vivian Chaplain both died as a result of the fires.
"We are all grieving and it's just devastating. I had known them both since birth," Lowe said.
Heartbroken by the events, Lowe has launched a fundraiser to help her community rebuild - which has already raised more than $28,000.
Lowe's campaign is one of many that have popped up over the past few days.
Over 215 crowdfunding campaigns have been created and $250,000 raised to support fire-affected communities, Regional GoFundMe Manager Nicola Britton told 10 daily.
Britton said most of the campaigns are on the behalf of someone else and that when it comes to donating, Australia is one of the most generous nations.
Britton said that while scams are rare, GoFundMe refunds money if campaigns are found to be illegitimate.
"All of the funds remain under our control until we’re happy that the money is going to the intended cause. When we see a crisis we take that up a notch," Britton said.
"Because of the high volume of campaigns we’ve seen overnight we’re putting up a bushfire causes page and everything in that page will be verified," she said.
After a narrow escape from his Bowraville home on the New South Wales mid-north coast, Troy Gash's car went up in flames just as he was trying to evacuate.
His partner Carol Plummer had left an hour earlier and saved their dogs, while Gash stayed behind to put out spot fires.
Gash managed to save the couple's goat and drive down the road to safety until the flames engulfed the car and he jumped out.
"The car caught alight and god bless him, he drove until he had to get out and then ran three kilometres and I got a call to pick him up," Plummer said.
The couple has lost everything, along with four other families who also lost their homes on the same street.
Plummer's son was flying over the fires to Hong Kong while their home was ablaze and started a GoFundMe campaign from the air.
That campaign has since raised over $6,600 for the community but the couple might be forced to evacuate again from the town they've fled to.
"We've had our phones on charge all day, we've got everything packed and we're monitoring whether we'll have to leave," Plummer said.
"There's seven of us here and three dogs and a goat and as soon as we're notified that it's on a Watch and Act we're gone."
Lowe said that with so many Australians impacted by the fires, what's needed is to "bring everyone together".
"We don’t know the full devastation of what’s happened but right now we really need to build hope, just as much as we need to build homes."
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