Liz gives us an update on what NZA Group A has been doing:
This was a fun and emotional week for us. We started off in the blue mountains canyoning, the guides equipped us with helmets and harnesses, and we learned how to abseil. They hooked a rope to our harnesses, and we used it to guide ourselves down the rock wall. We first practiced abseiling down a 3 meter rock, then 15 and then a 45. It was very nerve-racking for most of us in the group but we all did it with a smile on our face.
Later in the afternoon we climbed, swam, walked, jumped, and slid through channels of water at the bottom of a narrow canyon. Finally at the end of the canyon we got to use our new repelling skills and lower ourselves down a waterfall. Some of us were less graceful than others, and most of us lost our footing on the slippery rock wall and smacked our bodies against it, but everyone made it down mostly in one piece. Finally done, thinking the worst was over we had to hike up stairs for what felt like eternity. We finally got back to our hostel all soaked but ended up having a nice night watching a movie with the group.
The next morning we had a nice 9 hour car ride full of horrid farting and terrible music to the crossing in a city called Bermagui. Here at the crossing, owned and run by Dean, Annette, and Chelsea, we had 6 days of service involving learning about permaculture and helping families that were affected by the fire. We helped Annette cook the meals, which always had something fresh from their garden. We used composting toilets, so instead of flushing, we added a scoop of saw dust every time we did our business. Everything that went in would fall into a trash can and be used as fertilizer for their trees.
It was a hard week for everyone mentally and physically but we all really pushed ourselves because we knew we were doing important work. One thing that really stood out was our second day at the crossing when we went to a dairy farm. The family is raising 3 kids younger then 5 and has 700 acres. We heard the wife’s story about what she did while her husband was out fighting the fires. The fire ended up getting so close to the home she decided to go take the kids and sit in the middle of the water hole they have for there cows when the husband came back he ended up saving the house and most of the livestock. After hearing their story, we helped by repairing their fences that got burned away.
The third day we were informed that the family we were about to meet had been seriously impacted by the fires. Although Dean tried to brace us for what we were going to see, no conversation could have ever prepared us for the way we felt when we witnessed first hand the devastating impacts of the fire. John and Sandra were some of the only people who stayed to protect their home while everyone else in the area fled. We were the first group that John got to tell his story too and he finally was able to open up about he was feeling and start processing the whole situation. What stuck about his story to us was the part where he and Sandra were standing outside the house with only a bush protecting them from the heat. We felt a lot of meaning in helping the family, especially because they were there during the fire and had gone through so much. We were all grateful that we could help make recovering a little easier for them. We cleared the burnt foliage from the perimeter of their home and dug a trench in order to replace a section of pipe that was burned. We worked for over four hours, but it was worth it. John’s granddaughter could finally use her swing set again, and the family could look outside their windows without seeing the charred trees only to be reminded of everything they lost.
Although it was a very hard week, we all grew as people and a community.
If you want to learn more about the New Zealand and Australia Semester Program, you can read more here.