Smoke. Heat. Haze.
For many who live in Australia, that is their reality as the Eastern coast of the country is enveloped in flames in Australia's largest bushfires to date.
The 2019-2020 Australian bushfires have already destroyed over 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres), making the fires bigger than the size of England and bigger than the recent Amazon and Californian fires combined and then quadrupled.
The New South Wales and Victorian fires have merged on the border in the Wodonga region creating a “mega-fire.” More than 6,500 buildings have been destroyed and more than 1 billion animals have lost their lives, including more than 25,000 koalas.
Not only is this the largest bushfire in Australian history, but it is now the largest bushfire/wildfire in world history. People have lost their homes, their loved ones, and for some – their lives. The area has a thriving Filipino population, and many Filipino Australians have been affected by the fires, including 300 Filipinos who were evacuated, four Filipinos who lost their homes, and 21 Filipinos who were stranded in Mallacoota.
The fires continue to rage without any sign of slowing down.
In 2013, Australia donated $1 million AUD for the rebuilding of towns ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan, or more popularly known to Filipinos as Super Typhoon Yolanda. Many Australian partners and volunteers travelled to the Philippines to help build houses and rebuild lives. Australia helped our home country when we were in need, and now that Australia needed help, many of us felt it was time we showed them our thanks.
At the heart of the Filipino culture is bayanihan, a sense of community spirit that encourages us to work together to achieve our goals.
In January, our subsidiary, Subtle Filipino Traits, put the concept of bayanihan in action. They partnered with Gawad Kalinga Australia for their Gawad Kalinga/CAFOVI Australian Bushfire Appeal to provide relief to victims in the East Gippsland region.
From January 5, 2020, Gawad Kalinga Australia collected donations across numerous locations in Melbourne. Donation items included toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shaving kits, combs, toilet paper, sanitary products), first aid items, disposable nappies, baby food, pasta, pasta sauce, cooking oil, long-life milk, ready to eat meals, tea, coffee, instant noodles, juices, water bottles, breakfast cereals, biscuits, and canned goods.
On January 11, 2020 volunteers – including Subtle Filipino Traits members – gathered in Ravenhall and Springvale to pack relief packs.
On January 12, 2020 those relief packs were transported and distributed to Loch Sport, and Sale.
This concept of bayanihan is the driving force behind Samahan and Subtle Filipino Traits. We are here to help our family members even in the hardest and most trying of times, no matter where they are.