A union of Ballarat humanitarians is acting to address the plight of northern New South Wales flood victims, still suffering months after disaster struck.
Alfredton Rotary Club, other members of Rotary District 9780, and affordable modular housing business BDC Global Group have joined forces to house those still without a home due to the horrific weather event of February and March.
Alfredton Rotary Club member and incoming governor for Rotary District 9780 Kathy Rivett, who has been involved in the charitable body for 22 years, is committed to assisting those who are less fortunate.
"We're here to help people," Mrs Rivett said. "We do it and we do it well."
Mrs Rivett is fully aware of the disastrous situation continuing to unfold in northern NSW.
"It's horrendous," she said.
"(There is) a family of seven living in a tent on a riverbank; there are people sleeping in cars with their pets still after all this time; there's a disabled man sleeping on the floor of his carer's home.
"We can't let them do that. We've got to give them their own independence and four walls."
The Rotary district's efforts to aid the flood-affected residents began on a relatively small scale.
"We actually did a pet supplies collection," Mrs Rivett explained.
"We've sent three truckloads (of pet supplies) and another five pallets up.
"The three trucks worth of pet food was gone in a day."
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Now, alongside Ballarat's BDC Global Group, Mrs Rivett hopes to provide much-needed accommodation to the homeless masses.
"People haven't got housing and we can assist," she said.
"This was an opportunity to help a lot of people who are otherwise living in tents or on people's floors.
"This is providing the gap money between what people can get from their government grants.
"If they can get $20,000, we're giving them $10,000 so they can afford one of these pods."
BDC Global Group CEO Matt Fidler and general manager Dean Lanyon travelled to NSW in the wake of late February's first flood.
"Dean and I went up a week after," Mr Fidler said.
"We sat on the highest part of Lismore when we got to town. We didn't talk for about half an hour. We looked around and said, 'How was this possible?' This water was up here and the river was 16 metres down.
"As far as you looked, on double-storey homes, you could see it had reached the top gutter. There was rubbish. It was like a Third World town."
Lismore and its surrounds continued to experience nature's wrath.
"I went back up after the second flood," Mr Fidler said.
"The rubbish which was packed up the first time was all over the street again. I was saying, 'What the hell?'"
Mr Fidler is concerned about limited awareness of the ongoing challenges of those in the flood-affected regions and, with a history of helping those in need, he is literally and metaphorically rolling up his sleeves.
"No one knows, anywhere else in Australia, what's happening there," he said.
"This is why we started BDC. We're going to people who need it."
BDC Global Group has developed a unique modular 'pop-up' home for the particular situation faced.
"We've specifically designed a brand new (modular home) in the last six weeks," Mr Fidler said.
"It's not imported at all. This is a Lismore prototype we could flat-pack and make in a hurry."
Mr Fidler is also looking for those in northern NSW to be inspired and to get involved.
"We're saying to the businesses of Lismore, 'What can you supply for this house?" he said.
"Part of our program is 'we teach people how to fish; don't catch the fish for them'.
"We'll supply the product; they'll get it done.
"I'll teach an army up there this week."
This was an opportunity to help a lot of people who are otherwise living in tents or on people's floors.- Alfredton Rotary Club member and incoming governor for Rotary District 9780 Kathy Rivett
In addition to monetary donations, other items from the Ballarat region's community will be gratefully embraced.
"As it grows, we're looking for materials: shower bases, toilets, plumbing supplies, windows, curtains, a kitchen unit, floating floors, vinyl, tapware," Mr Fidler said.
Having experienced difficult times, including homelessness, himself, Mr Fidler knows of the importance of housing.
"Only when you have a roof over your head, you can move forward," he said.
"If you haven't got a roof over your head, you're in trouble."
Mrs Rivett backs Mr Fidler's thinking.
"It's independence," she said of housing's significance.
Mrs Rivett, ably supported by husband David, and Mr Fidler, with the unflinching loyalty of Mr Lanyon, are aware of the scale of the operation, but they are not intimidated in the least.
"We can't save everyone in Lismore," Mr Fidler said with a touch of realism.
"It will be one at a time.
"And that one gives hope to the next one."
Donations can be made directly to the dedicated Rotary fundraising program: 'Housing Pods for flood victims, NSW (RABS) - Project 65-2021-22'.
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