THE St Vincent de Paul Society’s Queensland disaster relief committee chairman Ron Sullivan said the recent spate of natural disasters throughout the state has tested the organisation to its limits.
Mr Sullivan, who is also state vice-president, said the experience gained would stand the organisation in good stead for future emergencies although “please God nothing of this magnitude will happen again”.
St Vincent de Paul Queensland has raised $4 million and already expended $2.2 million of this, helping more than 900 households across the state.
Assistance has ranged from the supply of fencing material to farmers in the St George and Surat region to plasterboard for the interior of homes around Kenmore to the handing out of actual cash, something the organisation rarely does.
About 150 students were also helped with replacement uniforms and books to enable them to start the school year with a minimum of disruption.
“It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us,” Mr Sullivan said.
“The extent of these disasters has been completely outside the square for us.
“We’re not the SES and a good number of our members are quite elderly.”
Mr Sullivan has spent much of his time in recent months visiting disaster-hit regions from one end of Queensland to the other.
“Six out of Queensland’s eight (central council areas in the society) have been affected by this year’s natural disasters,” he said.
“So I’ve been up north where places like Tully, Cardwell, Ingham and the beaches were hit hard by Cyclone Yasi … there are still a lot of problems there.
“I’ve also been to places like Rockhampton which is not too bad although Emerald got hit much harder.
“It was difficult for the organisation to initially be able to do much in places like Grantham and Cardwell. “They were very hard to access as these locations were in a state of emergency, although we were able to get tucker, clothing and bedding in.”
Mr Sullivan said there was still much work to be done in the next stage of recovery.
He gave the example of corporate groups such as The Body Shop “helping out in a tremendous way by handing out free personal care products and donating thousands of dollars worth of Target vouchers”.
“Young people can do all sorts of things – for example I heard on the news of a group of young volunteers from John Paul College at Daisy Hill who helped paint a flood-affected house,” he said.
“I’d recommend anyone wishing to offer their services to contact their local St Vincent de Paul branch. “The need is still great.”
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