One year ago today. One year since the landscape changed and so did my world. The winds came in strong and lashed out at our beautiful landscapes, our homes and our local businesses who held the heart of our community within their walls. The walls were now gone. The trees were torn from the earth, uprooted and strewn across our roads and onto our roofs. The town was battered. But, as in most natural disaster zones, our spirit wasn’t. My small town braced itself and charged its way through a cyclone and, strangely, it’s one of the best things that could’ve happened to me.
I’m no stranger to natural disasters as I was deeply affected by severe flooding in my big city before I moved. I know what it’s like to face the whirlwind of nature and I know what it is like to have my two hands and my strong heart busy with the subsequent recovery.
This cyclone was no different. It was the first time I had experienced a terrifying event alone, because internally I was all kinds of unsure as to what was going to unfold and externally I was all smiles and taking what will now be known as ‘cyclone selfies’. I didn’t have my family to run to. I didn’t have anyone to remind me to be an adult and to pack an emergency kit. I didn’t have anyone to reassure me in the dark while I had no power for 8 days. However, even though I was alone, I wasn’t lonely. I discovered a whole community who came together to help and support each other through the many challenges of post-cyclone cleanup. I had great friends to hide out with as we all evacuated our houses and the storm approached. I had strong workmates who helped get life back to normal as soon as possible at school. I had family and friends in my big city sending through well wishes and reports as we didn’t have access to media. They knew more than we did.
There are so many details that I can give you about how the cyclone unfolded – the sound of the cyclone warning over the radio that haunts me still; the text message you receive telling you to evacuate (to 3 different locations for me); the unique howling of the wind as the eye passes over you and; the daze that you walk around in as you see the damage for the first time and the endless view of emergency crews tackling problems from the sky to the ground. But that’s only one part of this story. The rest is to come as I discover I can do and be more than I’d ever imagined. The part where I see, first hand, how generous and kind people really are.
An opportunity appeared where I could join a committee of outstanding people to help organise a fundraiser for all the volunteers who helped our town recover after the cyclone. What an event to be part of! We created magic for our little town and we showed the country how alive we were after such a disaster. I could help make a difference and, in the process, meet so many inspirational people in our community.
I had also inspired myself.
I saw something in me and it opened a door. A really big one.
Following someone’s advice, I looked into what else I could do to involve myself more in the community and landed on the perfect challenge. I entered into the local ambassador quest to raise money for charity. I organised events and connected with local businesses and musicians to support a combination of local charities and community groups, as well as, my chosen charity The Sebastian Foundation. I sold sausages and raffle tickets, rocked a sash while walking around with donation tins and infiltrated my face into the town. And I conquered some life goals while doing it.
The sash enabled me to chat to everyone without looking creepy. Win! The quest helped me talk with local musicians that I admire (or stalk) with real purpose. All of these skills, which I may not have realised at the time, were building my character to ready myself for one of my biggest achievements yet.
The ambassador quest was an incredible experience. An experience that I’d love to repeat, so I am already on my way to helping the team create this year’s event. The quest gave me an outlet to raise money for something I am passionate about on a personal level. It gave me a chance to connect with The Sebastian Foundation (Guy & Jules Sebastian’s charity) whose outlook is ‘Families Helping Families’. I saw a real possibility to make a difference by contacting this charity, as my passion as an early years educator is based around the social and emotional wellbeing of children. All children. After all, how many young children from ‘typical’ backgrounds did I see become affected by the cyclone’s path? All children. There is no other charity that focuses on the happiness, confidence and resilience of all children. Maybe I could share my thoughts with The Sebastian Foundation and see if we can come up with a project together.
Guess what?! I did it! I not only raised money for The Sebastian Foundation but I organised to hand over the fundraising cheque to Guy Sebastian himself after one of his concerts in our local area. A 13-year long dream come true. I have never been more impressed with myself or more confident in my presence as I was on that night. I probably need to dedicate a whole new blog post just on how much I admire this man, not only for his musical talents but for the way he carries himself through life – constantly thinking of others. Guy was a pleasure to meet and The Sebastian Foundation were ever so grateful for my monetary contribution to their charity. So much so that I am expecting contact from them in the coming weeks to organise a project in line with my passion, to support my community, with the money we raised together. How brilliant is that!
So, one year ago, the trees fell. One year ago, the landscape changed to reveal a bigger world. One that I am very much part of. An amazing friend once asked me “Do you ever think that you are more than you are right now?” and my simple answer is YES!