August 22, 2022

The Fund in Action

Di Kuyken and her family have been in the unfortunate position to be recipients of emergency funding from GERF on two occasions in recent times. They were impacted during the 2019/20 bushfires and then received another whack in the 2021 storm event. Here is Di’s story…

Saturday 2nd March 2019 started like many weekends for my husband and I.  We enjoyed a coffee on our breakfast bar my husband built on the deck, enjoying our magnificent view.  After dropping one of our cars off to the mechanic in Traralgon, we saw on the Emergency App that there was a fire around Upper Middle Creek Road, Yinnar South. Upon arriving home, my husband rode the quad bike further up Healeys Road to assess the situation.

We felt quite comfortable, as we had 2 fire pumps, sprinklers and fire hoses around our house. Forestry management and CFA regularly updated us and suggested we wet the house down and be on alert.

Unfortunately for us, the fire got into our neighbours’ grassland, which was very high, dry and not slashed.  The rest is very much a blur as we saw the fire racing downhill towards our home. Our fire pumps choked and subsequently we had no water supply. I ran around the back of our home as fire was licking the retaining wall of our patio. As I was watching the heat from the fire shrivelling up our strawberries, the patio windows shattered and I ‘woke’ up out of my daydream and quickly got out of the house.  

My husband, daughter, her partner, myself and 3 dogs drove in one car to a friend’s house in Yinnar. From her house, we watched our beautiful cedar/brick home burn.

Our lives were changed from that moment on and the feeling of devastation is still with me, more than two years on.  We lost everything! Family heirlooms, photos, everything!

After visiting the relief centre at Kernot Hall, I tried to write a list of what we needed to get us through the coming weeks. We had the clothes on our back, medication and very little else. Realising we would need immediate cash to buy supplies for 4 adults – toiletries, clothing, shoes, food and start looking for accommodation.

I didn’t even know GERF existed. I had a phone call on the Tuesday after the fire and spoke with a lovely lady from GERF offering our family money to start the process of getting back on our feet. The overwhelming relief brought me to tears and as I was in Kmart buying the essentials, I broke down in tears and asked her if she was scamming me. I then rang her back at the number she gave and spoke to someone else who assured me this was no scam and a very legitimate group who have helped so many others over the years during a crisis.

Money was deposited into our bank account that very afternoon. The support and kind words we received from GERF certainly helped us slowly get back on track.  

After moving into our new home in Dec 2020, we were starting to be in a position financially to give back to GERF. Unfortunately, the floods and storms affected our property in 2021, and we again had another clean-up to do after land slip, trees over fences and track work damaged. Once again, GERF were able to help financially to purchase much needed winches and ropes, (which we hadn’t got around to replacing after the fire).

I would encourage anyone who is wanting to donate or contribute to GERF to please do. The money goes straight back to people who need it.  

Our thanks to Di and her family for sharing their story – another classic example of donations to GERF making a difference in times of emergency.

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