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In NSW’s southern highlands, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity have helped re-build the home of Justin, Helena and Gabriel destroyed in the devastating bushfires of 2019-20.
Helena said, ‘My wish is to regenerate this land. Already I can see the diversity in the flora and fauna has changed since the fires. I am very excited for what’s possible here, but I mourn for what was before.
‘Habitat for Humanity offers something that no-one else does – the help of the community has overcome our feelings of being overwhelmed and abandoned.
‘The psychological impact of seeing paths and new plants is enormous. We work from sunrise to sunset, but there’s only so much we can do ourselves. The volunteers cut short what would have taken us months.’
Justin, Helena and Gabriel very narrowly escaped as their house was destroyed, along with 40 others in a village that had 140 homes only.
When the family reached the fire evacuation centre, there was eerie quiet inside, but swirling winds and smoke outside. They then couch surfed from friend to friend before renting a granny flat. Weeks passed as the family’s resilience saw them through the hardest moments.
Habitat for Humanity’s chair, Paul Mulroney, said the volunteer program will run for months due to donations from around Australia.
As a long-time member of Churches Housing, Habitat for Humanity works through volunteers, house building and church partnerships.
‘We run a small home-building program working with families experiencing housing affordability stress. Families partner with us in building their home and receive an interest-free, 20-30 year loan based on 100 per cent of the market value of the completed home.
‘Partner families contribute 500 hours of their own time in the planning and construction phases – this is called sweat-equity and is recognised in the 5 per cent discount on market value that we return to them.
‘Through our model, we use the partner family loan repayments to build more homes for in-need families.’
Habitat for Humanity New South Wales actively seeks partnerships with local churches to help them disadvantaged families in their communities access housing solutions.