Lily Williamson was moved to start a fundraising campaign after devastating bushfires overtook Australia. Paige Mueller/The Free Press

To Australia from Fernie, helping those back home

With her home country going up in flames over 13,000 kilometres away, Lily Williamson knew that she needed to do something to help.

Last week, the Brisbane, Australia native started raising funds for the Australian Red Cross in an effort to do her part to stop the wildfires currently ravaging the country.

“When you’re overseas it’s very hard to articulate how you feel about it because you’re not there and it’s like you could be watching about another country on the news,” Williamson said. “I’m here in the snow but my country is 45 degrees and on fire.”

Williamson arrived in Fernie in November and has come to love the community over the past couple of months. She’s also found that everyone in town, both locals and Australians alike, have been incredibly supportive of her fundraising initiative.

The main focus of her fundraising campaign was the January 4 Ghostriders game. According to Williamson, she reached out to the Ghostriders about fundraising at the game and was met with an enthusiastic response. They put a donation bucket at the ticket counter and another in the beer area. Williamson also walked through the crowd, telling people about her initiative and collecting donations.

“I want to say that probably 80 per cent of people donated to me when I walked around,” she noted. “It was so good and there was a little corner with all the kids and every single one of them donated too. It was so nice, I was crying.”

Another big surge of donations came from “back behind the goal where all those Aussies are,” Williamson added.

Between the donations gathered at the hockey game, and donations coming through on her Facebook fundraising campaign (To Australia From Fernie), Williamson had raised around $900 by January 10. She plans to continue fundraising online and by placing a donation bucket at the Fernie CIBC in the near future.

Williamson decided to send the money to the Australian Red Cross because she “wanted to give to the people who are affected and the Red Cross is for everyone and everything that’s affected.”

She went on to explain that through her research she learned that the Red Cross money goes to “the communities, the firefighters, the animals, the environment, and conservation… Mainly the people who are affected but where money is needed, they give a hand.”

With reports from Australia claiming that at least 26 people and one billion animals have died due to the bushfires, a helping hand is certainly needed. Current estimates suggest that 17.9 million acres of Australia have been burned by some of the most devastating bushfires the world has ever seen.

Even though Williamson’s home town of Brisbane hasn’t necessarily felt the full brunt of the deadly fires, she still felt compelled to do something to help.

“It’s where I’m from. It’s my home and it’s burning and it’s really sad,” she said. “It’s a bigger issue as well because it’s not just burning because of fire – it’s climate change… Our prime minister is not really doing a lot so I think that’s why many Australians feel compelled to do their own fundraisers and organize their own things for it because otherwise it’s not really being done.”

If anyone is interested in donating to Williamson’s campaign, they can find her donation page, To Australia From Fernie, on Facebook or they can donate at the CIBC as of next week.

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