Australian bushfires: Bishop's Stortford schoolchildren, Rotarians and reiki therapist respond to appeal for cash help
Although they may feel helpless watching the Australian bushfires half a world away on their TVs, communities in the Bishop’s Stortford area have been answering the call to help those affected, writes Jennifer Winship.
An area roughly the size of England has been burnt, at least 30 people have died, more than 2,500 homes and over 3,000 other buildings have been destroyed, and an estimated one billion animals have been killed and some endangered species may be driven to extinction.
Local Rotarians are supporting a fundraising appeal. The Rotary Club of Bishop’s Stortford is sending £500 and its Stort Valley counterpart is donating £750.
Schools in and around Stortford are organising events to raise money and awareness of the cause.
Hockerill Anglo-European College Year 9 students Alice Borman and Nataliya Cromie said: “We’ve seen an astonishing amount of Hockerill students spreading awareness about the fires on social media and therefore believe that as a school we should contribute to the fundraising process.”
On Saturday, the Stortford secondary held a non-uniform day in aid of the New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service and NSW-based Wires Wildlife Rescue.
The Bishop’s Stortford High School will be holding a ‘Wear green and gold day’ later in the school year.
Richard Whittington Primary School's eco-committee held a meeting in the first week back after the Christmas holiday to discuss what they could do to help. "We chose something we feel particularly passionate about and something that we knew would have an impact," said assistant head Kylie Ashton.
On Friday February 14 it will be holding a non-uniform day to raise at least £94 to adopt a koala in Australia, as the animal is reported to be heading towards extinction in New South Wales and south-east Queensland as early as 2050. "With the kind donations made, we hope to be able to make a one-off payment to adopt a koala and possibly even more!" said Kylie.
The marsupial has also inspired pupils and staff at Hillmead Primary School in Bishop's Stortford.
"We have a silver coin collection planned," said office administrator Lynn Gosden. "We have two outlines, of a koala and a kangaroo, which we will ask children to ‘colour in’ with their silver change."
On Friday (Jan 17), Stortford’s Windhill21 Primary School is inviting pupils to wear green or yellow socks, hair bands or ribbons in return for donations of 50p-£1.
On January 27, the day after Australia Day, Little Hadham Primary is holding a cake sale of an Australian theme.
Reiki practitioner Beverley Weemes will be holding a fundraiser at Forest Hall Therapy Centre in Forest Hall Road, Stansted, on Saturday February 1, from 10am to 4pm, offering 30-minute slots of the energy-healing therapy to people in return for donations to Wires Wildlife Rescue.
“Having lived in Australia many years ago and seen this beautiful country and wildlife for myself, I was so heartbroken watching the media reports,” she said. “I’d already donated to the fire rescue team and wanted to do something more.
"Many slots have been taken, but I still have a few available and if I fill these I will hold another day." To book a session, email firstname.lastname@example.org or message her via her Facebook and Instagram pages at @reikihealingbybeverley.
Former Hockerill and Northgate Primary School student Emily Fowke has been travelling in Melbourne for the past month. She said: “Every TV in cafés and shops shows the fires. It’s crazy to be here through this.”
The Stortford resident, who was 19 on Sunday (Jan 19), described a visit to Jervis Bay in New South Wales. “Ash was literally falling around us, the sky went orange and it was really smoky. It looked almost post-apocalyptic.”
* Report by Jennifer Winship, who spent a week's work placement at the Indie as part of her gap year after leaving Hockerill Anglo-European College, where she was head girl, last summer. Coincidentally, she was the first reader to buy a copy of the first ever Stortford Indie edition from our North Street office when we launched on October 4, 2017.