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22 August 2021
Acqua helps bring hope and healing to those impacted by bushfire tragedy (Photo Kian Worthing)
Aqua Hastings works for the Salvos in Disaster Bushfire Outreach. She is based in Albury- Wodonga and works to assist those severely impacted by the ‘Black Summer’ bushfires of 2019-20. Recently, Aqua spoke to Salvos Magazine and shared some of what her role entails and why she loves it so much.
Salvos Magazine: How long have you been a bushfire outreach worker?
Aqua Hastings: Since 4 May 2020. I prayed that God would put me where I was needed, and I am just so grateful for this amazing job. Most of us who work for the Salvos have our own life stories that prompt us to help people.
Aqua loves her job helping those impacted by tragedy.
SM: What does a typical day look like for you?
AH: It’s a delicious mixture of administrative tasks and delivering Bushfire Outreach services. Outreach requires driving through exquisitely picturesque countryside to bushfire-impacted properties. Once there, I confirm the loss and destruction of homes and property, have themgreat honour of listening to the heroic and incredible stories of the impacted people, and collect documentation of these facts.
There is a huge variety and a lot of travellingn involved. I cover a huge geographic area, from Tumut and Bombala in New South Wales to Mansfield in southwest Victoria and Numeralla in Victoria’s southeast.
I field phone calls for clients who find themselves with no money for food or fuel, and I organise loaded gift cards or vouchers. A farmer may have broken machinery, and I look into what assistance may be available for that. We only assist families and individuals, though, not farm businesses as such.
We are now in the process of transition. For the past 18 months, we have focused on directly delivering funds and grants to people. The Salvos have delivered a number of staggered grants – funds made available at different stages of the disaster – for which people have been incredibly grateful. We’re moving into community capacity-building as that is what the communities we assist have asked for. They are presenting ideas for what this might look like based on community needs.
I can also offer the support of other Salvation Army services, as they are available. This includes chaplaincy support from our rural chaplains.
SM: What are some of the areas of need you are finding in local communities?
AH: One area is that of trauma, especially among the men who stayed back when the fires came through in an attempt to save their homes and farms. Many of them were able to save their homes, but very few could save their farms. The vast majority have lost their livestock, equipment, infrastructure and are struggling to rebuild.
This falls into the category of mental health support, and several organisations are partnering to assist the men, many of whom are reluctant to access support. The Salvos team is also looking into needs expressed by the community and assessing how we can work to best meet them.
SM: What do you value most about your role?
AH: The humanity of it! I love the fact that we are meeting people at their point of need and that people make the most of the support we offer. I absolutely value the flexibility of the Salvos that enables them to fill in the gaps of services and care where people might otherwise miss out. I love that our help also brings hope to people in desperate situations.
Personally, it is also such a privilege to stand with people as they recover from devastating bushfire impacts and to be a small part of their recovery. We work with people intensively, and recovery work is for the long haul. There are so many moments and stories that come out of this work – stories where bushfire grants have literally changed people’s lives.
One fourth-generation farmer told me that he would’ve broken down if I hadn’t been there with him, for three hours, watching a digger tip the remains of what had been his home, his parents’ home, his grandparents’ and his great-grandparents’ home, into a tip truck.
SM: What is something you do as part of your role that others may not know?
AH: I become geographically misplaced quite regularly – don’t trust a GPS in the mountains!
SM: Is there anything else you would like to add?
AH: My role as Disaster Bushfire Outreach enables me to stand by people in hardship and speak and act with heart. By holding a presence of support, I live each day committed to serving and acting in love, to meet people where their need is.