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Can't donate cash? Here's how you can still help bushfire victims

Feel helpless? Here's how you can lend a hand without having to dip into your pocket. Images: Getty

Faced with catastrophic and unprecedented fires, Australians have dug deep, donating money, items and time. 

But now charities, fire agencies and state governments are warning that they are unable to store physical donations, imploring the community to donate funds instead. 

But what if you don’t have any money to spare? There are still ways to help out. 

Accommodation

Tens of thousands of NSW residents have been forced to evacuate ahead of the fires, with Transport Minister Andrew Constance describing it as the “largest evacuation of people out of the region ever”. 

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 04: Evacuees arrive at the Somerville relief center on January 4, 2020 in Somerville, Australia. The HMAS Choules was deployed to help evacuate thousands of people stranded in the remote Victorian coastal town of Mallacoota following fires across East Gippsland. One thousand people boarded the ship, two hundred went straight to Melbourne and the remaining 800 were bussed to Somerville where they were met by family and friends. Two people have been confirmed dead and at least 21 people are missing as fires continue to burn across the state of Victoria. Image: Getty

These people need somewhere to go, and this is where you can step in. 

Platform findabed.info, set up by journalist Erin Riley, is connecting those displaced by the blazes with people who have a spare one. You can register online here.

Airbnb has also facilitated free emergency accommodation, activating its Open Homes program. Under the program, active in NSW and Victoria, hosts who want to open up their home to emergency personnel and displaced residents can do so, free of charge

“We are very grateful to those hosts who have already opened their homes to provide free housing and we encourage others who live near affected areas to consider doing the same, if they are in a position to assist,” Airbnb spokesperson Susan Wheeldon said.

Water for animals

Leaving water out for animals is an easy way to help. Image: Getty

Leaving out water for animals escaping a blaze or seeking respite from drought and fire conditions is one way to help that takes only moments. 

WIRES suggests leaving containers of water in shady spots so they stay cool as long as possible, and change the water at least daily. 

Placing water at different heights and away from predators will also mean different animals will be able to safely access the water. 

Additionally, put stones or sticks in the water so that smaller animals can escape if they fall in. Placing water around the perimeter of your property will also keep reptiles sated without prompting them to venture closer to your home to access water.

WIRES also noted that during hot conditions, wildlife services are likely stretched thin, so transporting animals to the vet will also help - although it cautioned against approaching animals like kangaroos, goannas and snakes. 

Water for firefighters

Fire and Rescue NSW has suggested any home owner who has a Static Water Supply, like a pool, dam or large water tank, obtain a SWS sign and fix it to their front fence or mailbox.

These signs are available from local fire stations.

Time

While many charities are asking for financial donations in lieu of physical items, some are calling on volunteers to provide their time and specific items. 

ORBOST, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: Small spot fires still burn on January 05, 2020 between Orbost and Cann River along the Princes Highway, Australia. Two people are dead and 6 remain unaccounted for as bushfires continue to burn across the East Gippsland area. Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has declared a state of disaster in the region, compelling residents in threatened areas to evacuate. Thousands of people remain stranded in the coastal town of Mallacoota and are being evacuated by navy ships to Melbourne. Image: Getty

For example, the Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild has a number of sewing and craft events to make knitted items for injured wildlife. 

After the fires have subsided, groups like Blaze Aid connect volunteers with people in devastated areas to help rebuild structures and fences. 

“Volunteers also help to lift the spirits of people who are often facing their second or third flood event after years of drought, or devastating losses through bushfires,” the group says. 

“BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families, but also helping rebuild the local communities.”

Purposeful spending

If you can’t afford to donate spare cash, but need to purchase a gift for someone in your life or require a clothing item, one way to support bushfire victims and firefighting efforts is to purchase from one of the dozens of retailers who have pledged to pass on their proceeds to charities. 

Brands like Decjuba and The Daily Edited pledged to pass along 100 per cent of profits over certain periods. 

Check out the retailer you’re buying from to see if they’re pledging any donations. 

Blood

Early in the bushfire season, the Red Cross Lifeblood organisation called for urgent donations. Donation centre closures due to the November blazes left supplies severely depleted.

While supplies have reached normal levels once again, the Red Cross continues to need 29,000 donations a week.

Here’s where to find your nearest donation centre. 

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