Volunteering with Habitat NSW’s Bush Fire Recovery programme in the Southern Highlands is “going home” for Carly, 31. She was brought up in Balmoral, just over the railway tracks from the property where she has just spent the day with a team stacking cut logs, clearing and burning mounds of branches and foliage, and creating paths.
“I get a huge amount out of volunteering,” she says, “especially in this area because I grew up here. I really feel like I can give back to the community. I had been waiting for the opportunity to help out in some way and do whatever I could do, and this is something that is easy for me: I take a day off work, I come up and do this for the day, and I get to catch up with my family.
“You meet all these great people, the volunteers and the family we are helping, and just being outside for the day, doing a real day’s work is like therapy, both physical and mental. I’d rather do this than sitting in my apartment, on the computer working from home.
“Sometimes you feel almost guilty that the people we are helping are so incredibly grateful. Because I always have so much fun, and each time I come along I’m learning something too. Last week we were putting up fences and pig pens and I was learning how to use tools that I haven’t used before. So, I’m gradually building up more skills.
“My dad’s coming along with me tomorrow. He’s so pleased. He’s going to bring his chain saw!”
Carly, who is a public servant, lives in Canberra and has been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Australia since mid-2019, initially with the Brush with Kindness programme. She has previously also volunteered with the Red Cross.