Bushfire aid the “most humane” response

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Wearing masks to combat smoke, Lana Bruggeman, at right, and a friend signal that they’re fine as they prepare to evacuate the Bruggeman residence at Wingello on 4 January. PHOTO: Supplied

David and Lana Bruggeman are among the lucky ones.

Their home and business in the southern highlands town of Wingello should have exploded into flames this month.

Local firefighters expected everything would probably be razed to the ground by the megablaze front that tore through on 5 January.

In the end, precious forest land and a dozen homes were destroyed and no lives lost in what Mr Bruggeman calls a “miracle”.

The owner of Wingello’s general store and post office and says locals in the close-knit community are now struggling to absorb what has happened.

They are some of the many to see the benefits from Vinnies Bushfire Appeal being promoted in every parish in the country this Australia Day weekend with a special collection at Masses.
Donations from the parish plate will be sent to the National Council’s gift fund and distributed to affected communities as a matter of urgency.

Flames approach the Bruggeman property. PHOTO: Supplied

Australia’s bishops are also encouraging all to donate directly to Vinnies to support their immediate response and ongoing work in bushfire-affected communities.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the Church was “determined to be there for people over the long haul.”

Catholic Mission, the agency which raises funds for and awareness of the Church’s missionary effort, is diverting its fundraising from global mission projects to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal during the major relics pilgrimage of St Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents, saints Louis and Zélie Martin.

Cash is “urgently needed to help provide necessities such as fuel, clothing and food,” said the St Vincent de Paul’s Society national president, Claire Victory.

“Every cent of money donated goes to people in need,” she said. “We do not take a fee for administration or other costs.

“The scope of this disaster is unprecedented, but our volunteers and staff are on the ground across all states affected by the crisis.

“We very much appreciate the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s coordination of this significant, focused appeal.”

The Society is working with lead agencies and organisations including Catholic Religious Australia, Catholic Social Services Australia, the National Catholic Education Commission and Catholic Health Australia in a joint effort, she said.

Mr Bruggeman, whose family are stalwarts of the annual Good Friday Passion Play at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy at Penrose Park, said that the immediate cash aid offered to stricken Wingello locals by the president of the Moss Vale Vinnies conference Tony Ward was “fantastic”.

“[Vinnies’] been the most humanE response and the most effective that I’ve seen,” he said. “The impact I’ve seen it have on people is amazing. I can tell you that the money does go directly to help people and it is so important to have that cash aid when the stress they are experiencing is already so high.

“In those first days and weeks, when your house or your backyard shed and much of what you own is a molten pile of plastic and metal and rubbish, every day things become a struggle.

“For the first week we were all just going on adrenaline, but now people are really hurting as it is starting to sink in what has happened and what has been lost.

“There are a lot of tears as people absorb what has happened.”

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