The friendly face behind Nymboida’s bushfire recovery
WHEN Joanne Baker and her family set off from Melbourne on a road trip around Australia, they didn't expect to suddenly become frontline support for a community devastated by a bushfire.
Their journey from Victoria eventually led them to Nymboida, just two months after the Liberation Trail fire swept through the community, destroying 89 homes.
"We planned to stay here for a week but in that time we fully realised the true devastation of the fires and ended up deciding to help out," Mrs Baker said.
Mrs Baker and husband John ditched their road trip to become the registered Blaze Aid co-ordinators for the Nymboida fire recovery effort.
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"The community here is amazing; they welcomed us into their homes, and we've since made lifelong friendships" Mrs Baker said.
"The wider community have also been incredible with their food donations. Unlike other Blaze Aid camps, because we're essentially in the middle of nowhere, we don't have food cooked for us daily by community groups, so the locals have been filling that essential gap with donations of fruit and veg, right down to this lady who makes sausage rolls and slices. She's just beautiful"
While John is out on the frontline each day, helping rebuild homes, Joanne is on the other frontline, helping to rebuild people.
"I'm in the shed where everyone comes and gets what they need, but it's also a place for people to just go and talk," she said.
"I've hugged a lot of people, sat with people who have cried. There's still a lot of healing to be done with this community.
"When the wind picks up and it's hot, you know there are people sitting there getting anxious because it brings all of those feelings back from when the fires came through."
Although their time is slowly coming to an end, Mrs Baker said the experience has been incredible.
"In the few months we've been here, it's been amazing seeing the transformation in people," she said.
"I've been to burnt out properties where the owner is just devastated and struggling to work out what to do, then seeing that same place now have a shed on it for them to live in. You watch them change from this negative mindset to they're excited for the next step in rebuilding their home."