A Bit of Hope and Joy – Minderoo Volunteer Leigh van der Merwe
My folks live on Kangaroo Island. My family and I got over there a couple of weeks after the fires.…Read article
Disaster Relief AustraliaDisaster Relief Australia | May 2022
I was drawn to volunteer with Disaster Relief Australia (DRA) due to its focus on supporting veterans. After service in the Royal Australian Navy in the 1960s and 1970s, I wanted to put my skills to use in helping Australians, especially with the recent floods in New South Wales.
Currently deployed to Corakai, New South Wales in response to the floods of February 2022, I got to work assisting residents in mucking out houses, removing flood damaged items and restoring the environment. I have volunteered for years as a veteran’s wellness advocate in Coff’s Harbour and I wanted to bring that expertise to Corakai, in addition to doing the more physical work.
While working at a home along the river at Woodburn, I met a fellow veteran. This 82 year old veteran had served in the Australian Army in Vietnam, Malaya and Borneo. We quickly bonded over shared experiences; we had many similar stories from our time in service. While DRA worked to repair his home, I made sure I took the time to talk with this veteran and understand his needs.
The local Vietnam veteran had been devastated by the recent floods and and required physical, emotional and financial assistance. With my experience as a wellbeing advocate at a veterans centre, I quickly understood the need for assistance. Working with this local resident, I was able to reach out to Coff’s Harbour and confirmed that RSL Defence Care was available for to assist.
It was great to see that we could get more support for this veteran than was intially available. I like to know that veterans are going to get the assistance they need for the repairs of their house and that their safety is guaranteed. It is important to see that at their age, in vulnerable circumstances, they get the support they deserve.
I’m heading home to Bellingen as Wave 8 of DRA’s Operation Kelliher winds down, but I will never forget this Corakai veteran. I’m working with veterans services, and will be able to follow up on this case to ensure that this local resident gets the support he needs as the area moves to the next phase of recovery.