With caravan parks and camping grounds now closed to the public, and new regulations banning the gathering of over two people at a time, there were fears that BlazeAid may have had to pack up camp and leave their work incomplete as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to worsen.
Adelong basecamp coordinator Christine Male wants to make it clear that the volunteer group is still here and still determined to complete their work on repairing burnt and damaged fencing in the region.
“We are working under strict self isolating strategies,” Mrs Male emphasised.
“We’re travelling out to properties [with] two people in a car, and we’re not all sitting together for meals, we’re spreading out and spacing out.”
In the past, local church, school and community groups have provided support to the volunteer organisation by assisting with catering. For over a week now that catering support has ceased and BlazeAid has become 100 per cent self sufficient, entering into near total isolation.
“We’re in lockdown, have been for a week, and we’re not taking new volunteers; it’s the same stable group that we’ve had for quite some weeks,” Mrs Male said.
“We’re trying to comply with everything the government has suggested and the health authorities in terms of A, keeping our volunteers safe; B, keeping our farmers safe; and C, making sure we don’t bring the virus into the community.
“Our volunteers are our most valuable asset so we’re trying to look after them, but we are very aware of the community’s trepidation with having strangers in town, so we’ve put measures in place to keep us as secure and as isolated as we can.”
Now that community catering has ceased, BlazeAid sends one volunteer into town every second day to do the shopping for the whole group.
Additionally, when volunteers head out to properties and farms each day to work on fences, they’re not allowed to stop anywhere along the way or go on any detours.
“They can go from camp to the property they’re working on, and from the property they’re working on back to the camp,” Mrs Male said.
“They’re not allowed up the street, they’re not allowed to drop in for a coffee or anything like that.”
BlazeAid usually sends groups of five or six out together to work on a property, but now they are down to groups of two to comply with the new government regulations. Mrs Male said that this has allowed them to cover more properties at one time, but they are progressing slower due the smaller teams.
Mrs Male said that she feels very proud of the volunteers for staying at the camp and continuing to work despite everything going on in the world right now.
“I think that they’re good, strong, brave people, every one of them,” she said.
“It’s really hard because most of us have got family interstate, so we can’t go home and see them anyway, so we may as well stay where we can be of some benefit to the community.”
BlazeAid has a reputation for not just repairing damaged fences, but also for lifting the spirits of those in the communities in which they work. The Covid-19 pandemic is making it impossible for the volunteer group to continue connecting with members of the community, not to mention everyday social gatherings at camp.
“A lot of people are just coming to get their meal and going back to the caravan to eat it, so the normal social side of BlazeAid, which we all love, is lacking a bit at the moment,” Mrs Male said.
When asked if this has put a damper on their spirits at all, Mrs Male responded with a firm ‘no.’
“We’re determined to get this job finished, very quiet determination.”