In this file photo, firefighters drag a hose to battle a fire near Bendalong, Australia, Jan. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Disaster Aid Canada raises over $40,000 for Australian wildfire relief efforts

Funds will be directed to Rotary clubs on the ground in impacted communities

As fires continue to rage in Australia, Ladysmith based Disaster Aid Canada is collecting donations to help impacted communities.

So far, Disaster Aid Canada has raised over $40,000. Those funds will be dispersed through Disaster Aid International to the Rotary Australia World Community Service, (RAWCS). RAWCS will distribute the aid to local Rotary clubs to support projects they’ve set up on the ground.

“Several projects have already been established for specific bushfire areas around Australia. The Australia Rotary District Governors have formed a committee which will decide where the funds are to be distributed. We would typically utilize local Rotary Clubs on the ground in affected areas to identify those families, Individuals and small businesses in most need,” RAWCS communications manager John Stockbridge said.

According to reports from BBC news, about 130 fires are burning in New South Wales, and two large fires on the border between New South Wales and Victoria have merged into a “mega blaze”. It is estimated that one-billion animals have died in the wildfires.

Australia’s federal government has faced harsh criticism for their response to the crisis. Despite a 2019 report from the Australian government that said climate change has already resulted in more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires in recent decades, the federal government has mostly denied the role of climate change.

RELATED: Disaster Aid Canada provides aid to Hurricane Dorian victims in the Bahamas

“This may be one of the first really big, clearly climate change stories that impacts everybody. It’ll be very hard to deny that this doesn’t have something to do with the droughts, the extreme heat and so on,” executive director of Disaster Aid Canada, Gerry Beltgens said.

Beltgens said that Disaster Aid Canada wants to send help that makes sense – which is why they are sending money directly to local Rotary clubs.

“There’s a Rotary club in every town that’s more than a couple thousand people. They’re very active in Australia,” he said. “Anybody in any town that’s been fire affected can apply to their local Rotary club, or to the bigger picture for support.”

Like in most disaster responses, fake fundraising initiatives have popped up claiming to collect donations to help families and communities reeling from the wildfires. News Corp Australia has reported that at least 47 scam attempts have been reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission since September 2019.

With Disaster Aid Canada, all of the donations go where they’re supposed to.

“We’re not going to send anything, whether cash or materials, unless we know that we’re sending what’s being asked for, and that we have people who are going to coordinate the distribution of either the money or materials on the ground in that area,” Beltgens said.

Disaster Aid Canada is collecting donations across the nation, and donations will remain open for as long as aid is needed. For those who wish to donate, a portal is online at disasteraid.ca.

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