Dungog Shire Community Centre still involved in superstorm recovery

STORM ANNIVERSARY: Project Bounce Forward case manager Charmaine Dickson and Dungog Shire Community Centre manager Sarah U’Brien
STORM ANNIVERSARY: Project Bounce Forward case manager Charmaine Dickson and Dungog Shire Community Centre manager Sarah U’Brien

As the first anniversary of the 2015 April superstorm approaches, share with us your experiences. Do you have any before and after photos? Are you still waiting for your home to be rebuilt? We want to know your stories.

While the 12-month anniversary of last year’s April superstorm is looming, there are still five households who are not living back in their homes.

There are also four households who are living in their previously damaged homes, but the work has yet to be completed.

With 192 adults and 56 children displaced or affected initially by the disaster, Dungog Shire Community Centre was at the fore of the disaster.

There were no communications within the shire for nearly 30 hours and emergency services were severely impacted.

Centre manager Sarah U’Brien said she was in awe of how the town bandied together in those early days to help those affected.

“People just pitched in and helped where they were needed,” she said.

“Everyone just did what they had to do to make sure these people had food, clean clothes, a dry bed and a shoulder to cry on.

“But we still have 52 open client files we are still in contact with either on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

“It could be to do with building matters or finding the right emotional support for their wellbeing.

“One the physical work is done then the emotional recovery begins.  And there is no timeframe to work through that.”

Over the past nine months the community centre has been working with Dungog Lions, Dungog Rotary and the Dungog Natural Disasters Appeals Fund to provide practical, relevant and beneficial monetary aid to individuals, families and household affected by the severe weather event of April 21 last year.

Over this time $170,000 has been distributed.

This money has covered the purchase of items such as fridges, freezers, beds, lounges, wardrobes, dining tables and soft furnishings, bedding, cutlery, crockery, toasters, kettles, dish racks, laundry hampers - all the items to make a house a home.

“As most of the items that have been needed to be purchased out of town this process has also involved sitting with individuals and assisting them to shop on line,” Ms U’Brien said.

“For many this has been a very new experience and the average time spent with an individual to purchase all needed items has been six hours.

“This does not include all the free items that we negotiated and distributed, such as lounges, kitchens, fridges, washing machines, TVs, clothes, electrical items, manchester and toys.

The approximate value of these is $50,000.

“This assistance has also covered building materials, trades’ wages and materials, as well as push bikes, computers, books and items to support children impacted.

“The funds distribution has been on an individual basis. This way the support and aid available is tailored to the individual circumstances and meets their specific need.

“The centre has worked closely with the other trusts and groups to ensure funds available are there for the long term and that everyone needing assistance receives support.

“There are still many people who have not moved home and funds need to be available for them as they move through their recovery.

“Of the four houses still not completed, we are looking as far away as August and September for some and we need to make sure there is still money available for them . . . to make their house a home.”

The community centre also worked with the Tzu Chi Foundation to provide $150,000 of debit gift cards to be distributed to impacted households across the Dungog Shire.

Claims can still be made to the funds, if anyone would like to discuss an application they can call the centre on 4992 1133 and talk to the Bounce Forward team.