The recent bushfires in NSW and Victoria left behind tremendous amount of damage to property and also loss of lives. When our team, Sikh Volunteers Australia, found out that the bushfires were getting out of control in East Gippsland, we headed out in a the Food Van fully loaded with groceries, utensils, and cooking appliances. We had no idea what to expect on our journey, but we knew we had to help.

“We had no idea what to expect on our journey, but we knew we had to help”

On the way down, team members tried calling phone numbers on the websites of local councils and VicEmergency. We eventually got in contact with Neighbourhood House Bairnsdale and were informed that a major relief centre was being set up at Bairnsdale City Oval for the people evacuated from the affected region.

It was there that Sikh Volunteers Australia parked and ran our free food van from December 30 to January 14. For 16 days, we woke up at 4:30 am to prepare and serve breakfast by 6:30am. While one team was serving at the relief centre, a second team would start preparation of lunch and dinner.

The food distribution would go on like this until 9:30 pm or even 11pm. We often got to bed around midnight.

During these 16 days of volunteering, our service team also came across a lot of heart-touching stories. There was a family living in the East Gippsland area since 1798 that had lost their home.

There was a nurse who came by just to thank us without knowing that her own family was struck with disaster and staying at the relief centre. Every day, our team met people who had lost their livestock and valuables, who were completely grief-stricken.

But in those 16 days, we were also overwhelmed with the love, affection, and gratitude of the brave people in the community. We witnessed the strong will of Australians, the united spirit of Australian culture.

In order to support people in bushfire-affected areas, we hope people visit these areas even after the relief work is finished. Let the people know in these areas that we haven’t forgotten about them. They are not isolated or left by themselves to restructure their hometowns.

All of Australia supports them, shoulder to shoulder, and with God’s grace, we will construct again from the ashes.

Help from locals, the Sikh community, and many others was abundant. People donated groceries and fresh veggies from their gardens so we could make stuffed potato bread with masala tea, veggie sandwiches, vegetable curries, pasta, and soups.