Through Tragedy, True Friends Discovered
Leanne Camilleri will always remember February 7, 2009 as Black Friday—the day she was among the 7,562 Australians displaced from their homes from the continent’s most destructive string of bushfires. Scorching temperatures, high winds and low humidity ignited the fires that destroyed over 1.1 million acres of land and injured or killed hundreds of people. The community of Marysville in Victoria was virtually destroyed in 26 minutes. All but 14 of the town’s 400 buildings were consumed, leaving those who survived with nothing.
An epicenter of activity and hope
“The state just erupted in fire. It was so hot that the iron on the roof was melting in pools. Engines in cars were melting. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen and nothing I ever want to see again,” said David Jones, Melbourne Lions Club. Amidst the smoke and with the assistance of US$130,000 in major catastrophe and emergency grants awarded by the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Lions stepped up immediately with generous donations of supplies and the creation of a relief distribution center to help people like Camilleri.
Reaching remote Marysville was challenging, but Lions worked non-stop, overcoming many obstacles to make sure that donations reached those who needed them. “When you go from absolutely nothing to within a couple of weeks we’re comfortable, we’re feeling quite overwhelmed by all of that,” said Christine Adams, fire victim and Lion.
Starting over, but not alone
“It’s very hard to describe how you’re feeling, that you’re walking out of something and you have just lost everything. It wasn’t until people started ringing us and said, ‘Well, look, the Lions can help you out.’ I can’t get over the generosity of people. It’s not just simply, ‘we’re giving you something.’ But they’re also giving us part of themselves as well. I can’t thank them enough,” Camilleri explained.