Bushfire recovery vouchers helps kids get back to school
RECOVERY from last year's devastating bushfires has been a long and challenging process and with the next season fast approaching, communities still recovering could easily feel forgotten.
Thanks to funding from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and Northern Rivers Community Foundation, $50,000 in vouchers have been distributed to help more than 500 bushfire affected families in the Northern Rivers pay for back to school essentials.
NRCF partnered with regional service provider Social Futures to distribute 1000 redeemable $50 vouchers to families in need across 35 schools in bushfire affected zones, all the way from Nymboida, to Rappville, Bonalbo and Woodenbong.
Coutts Crossing Public School principal Michelle Dalgleish said many families faced hardship in the aftermath of the fires due to property damage and loss of livestock.
"Our school community was affected by catastrophic fire conditions in November 2019. The fires threatened lives and property in the area, forcing the school to be declared temporarily non-operational due to safety concerns when the Coutts Crossing village was evacuated. It was an extremely scary time for students, families and the whole community," she said.
"The school has worked hard to deliver a range of social-emotional programs to improve student's resilience and strengthen coping skills in the aftermath of the bushfires. And now the vouchers have brought some welcome financial relief to families and students."
All 86 students at Coutts Crossing received a voucher.
"Dad stayed home and we went to our friend's place so we were safe," said one Coutts Crossing student, Bryce, who used the voucher to buy new art and craft supplies.
"I let my neighbours stay the night because the fire was so close to their house," said another student, Yuluwirri, who used the voucher to buy new school shoes, while fellow student Dimity bought a colouring book and dot-to-dot book. "I love it because it helps me when I feel stressed," she said.
NRCF executive officer Emily Berry said the vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the fires and have never been able to replace due to financial difficulties.
"We hope these vouchers support inclusion for the students, helping them fit into their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, or excluded because they are unable to purchase school essentials," she said.
"This simple gesture can go a long way … it's community building for people to receive donations and support from others. It demonstrates a value for people, community and an understanding of hardship."
In partnership with FRRR, the NRCF has been supporting the Back to School Program since it began in the Northern Rivers in 2006, distributing more than $500,000 in redeemable vouchers to disadvantaged children and their families in our region.
This is the first year that NRCF has partnered with Social Futures on the program and Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said they already have strong connections with the diverse communities across the region, including in remote or disadvantaged areas.
"So, when we were asked to help out with this project, we were happy to make use of our networks and hard working staff to see the vouchers get into the hands of families that needed them most," he said.