Water Run: Thousands Of Litres Of Water Delivered For Fire And Drought Relief
In the early hours of Saturday morning, 96 trucks loaded with water departed Sydney for drought-ravaged regional New South Wales.
The eclectic convoy, made up of everything from a 1970s Kombi Van to 2019 Scania trucks, left Rosehill Race Course bound for Armidale in north-eastern NSW with 850,000 litres of water in tow.
Behind the wheels of the vehicles were volunteers determined to ease the grip of the unrelenting drought on farmers and their families.
The 'Water Run' is an initiative started roughly 10 days ago by a group of Irish business owners based in Sydney. Having experienced their own hardship with famine and recession in Ireland, many of them wanted to help drought-effected communities.
"We are all Irish people. We came here during the recession in Ireland and we call Australia home, " Water Run organiser Chris Murphy told 10 daily.
"It was effortless. If we can do it in 10 days it really does shine a light on what other people could be doing too. "
Murphy, who owns a building business, connected with others from the Irish community. They started a Facebook page to mobilise donations of water, toiletries and other necessities, but Murphy said most of the donations and volunteers themselves came from word of mouth.
He also said Water Run's efforts were made easier by a widespread concern for people in rural areas struggling with drought.
"For a lot of people, it is something that is in everyone's minds and everyone's thoughts so we facilitated that on social media and through word of mouth and made it happen," Murphy said.
On the morning of the Run, a local cafe based in Clovelly, Sydney arrived at the Racecourse at 1.30am to provide drivers and their passengers with breakfast before the journey. Murphy also told 10 daily he met with an elderly couple earlier in the week who travelled 90 minutes to Sydney to personally donate $20 each in cash to the cause.
The convoy spanned a whopping 80 kilometres along the highway as they travelled north. The last vehicle was occupied by Darren the mechanic.
Darren was tasked with troubleshooting any issues a vehicle had during the drive to Armidale, which took the entire convoy a total of nine hours. He did whatever it took to ensure every last truck delivered their precious cargo to the destination.
In the days leading up to the Water Run, it became clear to Murphy that their supplies would be used, at least in part, for something other than drought relief.
"Initially it was drought relief, but the Rural Fire Service were struggling with water supply, people have limited stock water and limited drinking water," Murphy said.
"When we arrived in Uralla and dropped off 40 palates of water, there were trucks waiting for us to take it to the front line of the fires."
The whole experience for Murphy was both humbling and overwhelming. Not only was the vast mobilisation of people, resources and donations unprecedented from businesses and individuals in Sydney, but so too was the welcome from the locals in Armidale.
Murphy noticed people standing on the highway as their entered Armidale, waving at the passing vehicles.
"People stopped what they were doing to greet us," Murphy said.
"As we drove into Armidale there were two kids standing on a roof with their parents holding a banner that said ' Thankyou' with love hearts and Shamrocks. It was incredibly humbling. People stopped their lives to come and greet us.
"Aside from the water and the financial help we brought to the town, there was the mental reassurance that they know that people are thinking about them and you can't really put a value on that."
The convoy drivers stayed in local hotels and pop-up beds in the local university hall, all arranged by grateful locals. The drivers insisted they pay the university to stay, with the money going towards the education of students.
"It was the most humbling, selfless act that I have been included in, in a long time ... I don't think anyone could have expected it."
Most of the volunteers will spend Sunday travelling back to Sydney.
While there are no immediate plans for another Water Run, Murphy said there is certainly the need and there's certainly the will of Australians to help each other.
Contact Siobhan at firstname.lastname@example.org