By Mitchell Clarke
Across Casey and Cardinia, members of the Indian Australian Community Cooperative (IACC) have been working day and night to assist in the bushfire crisis.
The dedicated volunteers have sent six trucks through the Centre of Oneness, working with Sunny Duggal, Adarsh Kumar and Dk Tuli to raise a “huge amount” of cash donations to areas in East Gippsland ravaged by bushfires.
Co-ordinating local efforts, volunteer Aanchal Meshram opened her house to accommodate donations.
“Since we started this drive, we collaborated with many organisations, like the Centre for Oneness, Malayalee Association, local resident groups and local authorities,” she said.
Under the campaign, they collaboratively collected supplies from locations in Cranbourne, Narre Warren and Pakenham.
But the campaign was also about educating the community on how to assist without getting in the way of volunteers on the ground.
“I know everyone wants to support but it is essential to know the best way to provide support,” Ms Meshram added.
“My husband is a volunteer with the State Emergency Services and I want to advise people to not go (to the danger zones) as an individual.
“There are many authorities on ground to help. We have coordinated with them and sent them donations. But going there personally is dangerous.”
The efforts from IACC have generated community awareness and reached more than 10,000 community members who were able to donate to various collection points set up by fire authorities, Salvation Army and other relief centres.
“It was not about IACC doing the collections, it was about generating awareness around how people can contribute,” she said.
“We have a huge community and they wish to make a contribution but not many know how to get involved.”
Since providing the information, a large amount of funds have been donated and the group is now encouraging others to register to volunteer with their local SES and CFA brigades.
“Anything we can do in our capacity to generate awareness and make a contribution, we have been trying our best to do it and it’s great that we were able to reach out and send the message across 10,000 people in our community,” Ms Meshram said.
“There is a massive amount of damage which has happened but if each one of us makes a small contribution, we can help to build country Victoria again.”