University Of Kelaniya Alumni Association
 New South Wales & Australian Capital Territory 

Helping a bushfire victim

Few of us had the opportunity to visit a rural property completely burnt down from bushfire in the region of Lake Conjula, South Coast.

On Australia Day public holiday 27 January 2020, a few of us from the University of Kelaniya Alumni had an opportunity to visit a property completely burnt down in the bushfire in the region of Lake Conjula in the South Coast. It was with the motive of helping the property owner to clean up the debris that the fire has left. His name is Steve, and this is how our team, made a difference in his life.

Steve’s story was heart breaking as he had spent 30 years of his life building this property with its cabins and a small lake in the middle, all of which took only 15 minutes for the blazes to reduce to ash. His vehicles,  two cars, a tractor, a caravan, a motorcycle, a backhoe and a generator among the fridges, water tanks and a library he has built over the years now lay either in ashes or melted down to its metal frames. 

Once  a land covered in green grass with bougainvillea and jasmine vines the property was now reduced to piles of metal.  The team started piling up the rubble and in a few hours, there were several piles of tin sheets, metal beams, chains etc., The young and the young at heart worked alike until the task saw its completion.

Steve had a story to relate with every site of debris being cleared; of his sister’s cabin, of the little island he built in the middle of the waterhole and of the cosy little library of which only the  stone walls were remaining. The work continued amid his occasional tearful recollections of a past that was no more.

It was a story of trauma, utter loss beside the destruction. Yet, there was hope of rebuilding. “If the giant burnt eucalyptus can bounce back to life, so can I.” Steve exclaimed with determination. Living in a tent and  a makeshift toilet, he spends average three days maximum on the site due to the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere, and the depressing sight. He leaves to the city to his son’s family after clearing the place the way he can. He has put up a bird feeder in the hope of potential company of wild birds. 

Steve was grateful for the work done which enables him to get the council to clear all the piles of debris and is hopeful of getting back on his feet. He was not in need of material goods but the man and womanpower beside the company of humans at least for one day which seemed to give him a lease of new life.

The team of UKAANA was accompanied by members of Lak Saviya Foundation Australia Incorporation (LSF) who worked tirelessly towards the clearance of the whole land area. Our appreciation to them.

Thank you to Prabhath, Chaminda, Inoka and their daughter Shehani and Catherine her friend, Melanie, Udaya, Renuka and their son Pavan, Upananda and his son Nipun, Pium, Roy, Ashok and to the family members who prepared the food that we shared with Steve and his sole companion Edward, the dog.

We all left content that a few hours of labour and company has made a difference in another man’s life. Let us not forget, that this is just one story… there are thousands more.. Well done UKAANA for a great beginning to the year 2020! 



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