11 April 2024

Help needed as Unanderra woman leads flood relief efforts amid influx of donations

| Kellie O'Brien
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Unanderra floods

Help is needed as donations come in for flood victims. Photo: Supplied.

Unanderra woman Samantha Lukey was an author on a paper discussing cumulative disaster issues on the South Coast and the realities of trying to help people in times like bushfires, COVID and floods, only to find herself living out her paper this week.

Samantha is managing the donations pouring in for last weekend’s flood victims in the Unanderra and Farmborough Heights areas, but is in need of help as she tries to also maintain her full-time role as a social worker.

The task hasn’t been easy, with an overwhelming number of people needing help and equally large number of people offering donations, with no drop off point available.

“I’m getting messages from different people but tracking what is being offered and matching it is actually a lot of work when I’m trying to work full-time as well,” she said.

“I’m an author on a paper that was published about a combination of the effects of cumulative disaster for the Aboriginal Indigenous communities on the South Coast, what the effects are and have been, and what is needed.

“It was about how the Aboriginal communities on the South Coast really banded together to pull resources together.”

She said along with the grant-funded paper written with colleagues a couple of years ago, as a mental health social worker she had also worked with people affected by fires and seen “the impact of being impacted and then having to respond to everybody going, ‘So what do you need and where can we put it?’

“It only occurred to me this morning that I’m sending people to the people affected, and that’s going to be overwhelming to them,” she said.

“It’s not ideal.

“I thought, I should have sorted a drop off point for stuff, and then it’s keeping track of what everybody’s offering to donate and working out if is it too much of certain items.”

READ ALSO Need help after the floods? Here’s a guide to support in the Illawarra

Samantha said she contacted the Unanderra Community Centre, but had yet to hear back, but in the meantime needed a dedicated space for people to drop off goods other than her own house.

She said she and her husband would be using one of their trucks Friday, 12 April to drive by and pick up items people wanted to donate, such as fridges and lounges.

However, it wasn’t just the collection and housing of goods that was proving difficult to manage.

“One of the issues is housing instability and insecurity,” she said.

“There’s one young family that’s in a caravan on the street.

“The young woman came from Sri Lanka four months ago, and they’ve lost everything.

“Neighbours up the road in the street they were affected in have let them move into their caravan on a temporary basis, but they cannot move back into their place because it looks like the roof is going to collapse.

“They’re trying to find rental accommodation in the area.”

She said the family car, which wasn’t insured, was also unable to be driven after flood damage.

“We can’t give them anything like furniture yet, because they don’t have any place to go, but I dropped a box of veggies around to them yesterday.”

She said another young family in Rickard Road had their rental home condemned.

READ ALSO Acts of kindness shine through amid Illawarra flood devastation

“Housing precarity is a huge issue, but also then having stuff replaced because people couldn’t afford to pay the insurance,” she said.

“There are households that have got insurance, but the households I’m trying to help don’t have any contents insurance.”

She said many had lost everything, down to school bags and schoolbooks.

“I did a door knock on Sunday and a family was walking around barefooted because all their shoes had floated away,” she said.

On Facebook, Samantha had posted a list of specific items needed by the affected families, such as beds, bedding, shoes, toys, a lounge, food, washing baskets, schoolbooks and a school bag.

But with any donation drive, often there is an overabundance of certain items.

In this case, Samantha said it had come in the form of old mattresses, with no one offering new bedding and new mattresses.

She said with the temperature having dropped this week, heating was also needed, with one family’s electric heater having been filled with water.

“It makes me teary thinking about this, but it’s been an interesting opportunity, ironically, to get to know the neighbours,” she said.

“It’s that community spirit, coming together and sharing resources that I think is probably one of the positives to come from this.”

To help with donations, coordination of donated items or a dedicated drop off space, text Samantha on 0432 119 481.

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