Meet the individuals and celebrities doing their bit to help victims of the Australian bushfires
As the Australian bushfires rage, people are stepping up to provide succour. Tennis champions Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova have donated 25k while teenagers Micah and Caleb are driving around South Australia in their car to rescue injured koala bears.
Australia, which is enduring its hottest and driest year on record, has been fighting a battle on another front as it experiences one of the country's worst fire seasons.
Since September, at least 17.9 million acres of the country have burned, with fires claiming at least 27 people's lives and destroying over 2,000 homes.
The land and biodiversity are also facing the brunt, with an estimated one billion animals dead, and long-term damage to many sensitive ecosystems likely. The dead animals include koala bears, kangaroos, dunnarts, amphibians, and birds.
This has been the most devastating fire season that Australia has experienced in over 20 years. The last time a similar fire took place was in 1974.
The New South Wales and Victoria regions have been the most affected, with Melbourne and Sydney some of the larger cities struggling to cope with the bushfires, extreme heat, and drought conditions.
The fires, experts believe, started in different ways: by lightning, and by human actions, including arson. However, the climate conditions were the fuel that helped the fires to grow and spread.
And while world silently prays and hoping that the fires are vanquished, a number of individuals are doing their part to help people and animals in the “land down under”.
SocialStory brings you individuals and celebrities who have gone out of their way to support Australia during this difficult time.
Steve Irwin’s Family
Crocodile hunter and environmentalist Steve Irwin’s family is continuing his legacy by rescuing wildlife and threatened species and treating them.
So far, the family has managed to save and treat over 90,000 animals.
Irwin’s daughter Bindi took to Instagram to say, “With so many devastating fires within Australia, my heart breaks for the people and wildlife who have lost so much.”
Some of the animals they have managed to save are possums, fruit bats, and grey-headed foxes. The animals are treated at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, which is run by the Irwin family.
"My parents dedicated our Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital to my beautiful grandmother. We will continue to honour her by being Wildlife Warriors and saving as many lives as we can,” Bindi said.
The zoo and conservation premises in Beerwah are a safe zone, far from the forest fires.
Terri Irwin, Steve Irwin’s wife, and Robert Irwin, his son, are also working tirelessly at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors. They have an excellent team of staff dedicated to protecting injured animals.
They are currently looking for more donations to help support the animals being treated at the Zoo Hospital. Donations can be made on their website wildlifewarriors.org.au.
Novak Djokovic & Maria Sharapova
Serbian Novak Djokovic, one of the world’s top tennis players, and Russian professional player Maria Sharapova have contributed funds to help victims of the Australian bushfires.
Having represented their individual countries in the Australian Open a number of times in the past, it is only fitting that the duo would want to extend a helping hand to the country that has supported them in their career.
Maria Sharapova went on Twitter to say, “The month of January in Australia has been my home for the past 15 years… watching the fires destroy the lands, its beautiful families and communities of animals is deeply (heartbreaking).”
Novak Djokovic supported the tennis star, saying, “Maria Sharapova, I would like to match your $25k donation to double the aid sent to these communities. We stand by you, Australia.”
Other tennis stars such as Serena Williams, Rodger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have also come together to play a charity tennis match for the Australian fires, ahead of the 2020 Australian Open, which is scheduled to take place between January 20 and February 2 at Melbourne Park.
Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban
Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman and country singer Keith Urban have donated $500,000 to help curb the bushfires in Australia. They have donated this to the Rural Fire Services.
“Our families’ support, thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the fires all over Australia,” the couple said on Instagram.
The two celebrities are Australian natives, and own property outside Sydney. They have also made a list of places you can donate to help save those suffering from the bushfires; this can be found on their social media handles.
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Micah & Caleb
Two teenagers, 19-year-old Micah and 18-year-old Caleb, are doing their bit by being the heroes society needs. They drive around in their car, rescuing koala bears in South Australia.
The bears have been injured in the fires, and the two boys are doing all that they can to provide them with a shelter and safe space till they are fit to be sent back into the wild.
The two cousins, who are operating in Kangaroo Island, say as many as 60 percent of the koalas they came across on the island had unfortunately burned to death. The duo has managed to save around 20 koala bears till now, and is continuing to help.
Kanwaljit Singh & Kamaljit Kaur
Desi Grill, an Indian restaurant in East Gippsland area in Victoria, Australia, has been providing free food to fire fighters and victims of the Australian bushfires.
Sikh Volunteers Australia also helped restaurant owners to disburse food wherever it was needed.
Run by Kanwaljit Singh and his wife Kamaljit Kaur, the couple felt it was their duty to serve the community.
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Kanwaljit said, “Last night had been very busy. We helped the volunteers with cooking rice, curries, and pasta, and the food was distributed in at least 500 takeaway containers.”
He added, “We have the capacity to cook for up to 1,000 people in a day. But it all depends on how much is needed in the field. We have stock of rice, flour, and lentils, which we think should be sufficient for the next week or so.”
Sikh volunteers had set up a food van in the Bairnsdale Oval relief centre, where they served everything, from breakfast to dinner, according to Republic World.
The team was helped by the couple who bought the groceries and allotted space in their restaurant to prepare food on New Year’s Eve.
(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)