Students affected by the 2019/20 fire season have been getting a little help with their school expenses thanks to a grant from the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal. Social Futures, along with the Northern Rivers Community Foundation (NRCF), worked through 35 schools to distribute a thousand donated $50 vouchers to families across the Northern Rivers region.
For the first time, the vouchers were sent electronically for students, or their schools, to print up and exchange for school related kit such as books, clothing and stationery.
“It was a big job finding just which families had been affected by the fires,” explained Social Futures Senior Customer Experience Officer Kim Riches.
“It was such a widespread disaster. We relied on the schools to fill in the picture, but even finding the right schools took a bit of work,” she said.
“I think the last vouchers went to Dundurrabin public School,” she added.
Dundurrabin, a small community inland from Coffs Harbour with less than 100 residents, was badly affected by the Bees Nest fire of September 2019.
Social Futures also distributed vouchers through their programs like Mijung Jarjums and the Family Referral service.
“We already have strong connections with the diverse communities across the region, including in remote or disadvantaged areas,” explained Social Futures CEO Tony Davies.
“So, when we were asked to help out with this project, we were happy to make use our networks and hard working staff to see the vouchers get into the hands of the families that needed them most.”
Emily Berry of NCRF said, “The vouchers are for purchasing items that students may have lost in the bushfires and have never been able to replace due to limited funds available in the family. We hope these vouchers help inclusion for the students, that they can more easily fit in to their school environment and go on to realise their potential, instead of feeling different, excluded because of their financial hardship.”
While the fires were indiscriminate, many regional and disadvantaged communities were significantly affected, with homes lost and, in some cases, the school buildings themselves.
Michelle Dalgleish, principal at Coutts Crossing Public School 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,” said Michelle.
“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,” she said.
All 86 students at Coutts Crossing received a voucher.
“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,”