According to recent news reports it is 12 months since the tragic bushfires began and lasted for weeks causing devastating and trauma for so many families.

The impacts on families, villages, towns and the nation were horrendous.

Recovery is a long process and memories of experiences will never fade out of existence for some families.

Realisation of all of this began a process which makes me proud of the Narrabri community and grateful and I am part of it.

Narrabri is a loving and caring and doing community and since 1969 Judy and I have been part of, and contributed to the loving, caring and doing – and at times we have been the recipients of the community’s loving, caring and doing.

Therefore it was no surprise that my concerns for these families who had lost their homes in the fires were shared by many in our community.

We could all see the problem but how could we help with what we have?

Past experiences often help find an answer to issues faced today.

My time working with and for the disabled people of our district gave us an opportunity to make toys for the Sydney market.

During our years in ministry and particularly in Outback Australia, we learned the value of carrying a box of home made wooden toys when dealing with tragedy and trauma or other kinds of crisis in the lives of families.

It was families suffering tragedy and trauma that we were now concerned about and we knew the value of wooden toys and we knew how to make them and we had enough recycled timber to get started with.

But many other problems and issues had to be resolved before we could make that start.

I can remember my maths teacher many years ago saying that algebra was the means of solving problems by gathering all the relevant elements together on one side and getting them to work in harmony (according to the BODMAS rule) and arriving at the right answer on the other side of the equation.

Some of the our relevant elements are – supply of materials, making the toys, where to send them, how to send them, to whom do we send them, how can they be distributed to the ones most in need etc.

I began by sharing all this with our former mayor Cathy Redding and because of this presence at the time Inspector Robert Dunne also.

It was there that the process of gathering all the relevant elements together began and the working with them continued until we had a good answer – a workable plan.

It has proven to be just that.

The first box of toys was dispatched the first week in January to Rev Peter Pallet at the Moruya Presbyterian Church because the Eurobodalla Shire relief centre operated out of the church hall and because Peter was someone I knew and he was willing to help us help these families.

The second box went to Mr Phil Dutton at Bega, who I knew well.

With the encouragement of the VRA senior chaplain Ray Lotty, the Bega squad personally delivered the toys in that southern area.

We kept making and sending toys to Peter and Phil in Melbourne, during this whole needy period which was immediately followed by the COVID-19 crisis which went to families suffering trauma and difficulties.

The equation had a re-run with similar elements and the problem again answered.

Again successfully.

The cause of the need to help and encourage families was the pandemic but children and families were hurting and traumatised by being separated.

Parents were unable to go home because of where they worked and the high risk of being infected and taking the infection home.

How to find these children and get our toys to them seemed to be impossible because all the official channels were in overload and our little enterprise was a thanks but no thanks.

Again I contacted a brother Minister Phillip Mercer at Camberwell Presbyterian Church and requested him to investigate how we could reach out to these families.

Phil rang back in three days with the news that churches were caring for about 180 pre-school and infants children from the families just mentioned.

I consulted with Cathy Redding and we concluded this was the exact situation we wanted our Narrabri community to be involved in and hoped and prayed for a door of opportunity which was now opened to us.

To do this we would be totally dependent on some willing person to help us in Melbourne.

We were delighted Phil would organise the distribution by church members for us.

Because of the five kilometre rule I understand the toys may have been picked up and taken to the care centres by police volunteers.

We sent the first box of toys to Phil in August and we are still making them and sending them.

Such has been the need and Narrabri community’s joy to be able to help and encourage these families.

That is a report on what the Narrabri community has done this year and how we accomplished the goal we set ourselves.

The reality is that none of this could have been accomplished without the generosity and involvement of Narrabri people and businesses.

This was been displayed in many ways from gifts of materials, cash, a helping hand, faithful prayer support or good, old fashioned support and encouragement when we meet.

There are many and varied expressions of thanks for the gift of these toys and for all those who participated in their manufacture and getting them to the children.

Because I seem to be the middle man in this enterprise and desire to pass on effectively the gratitude of the recipients, I have been making wooden gifts from spare material as I can and giving them to those who have helped.

Like the toy making, this is still work in progress.

A very hearty thanks to all who have contributed and helped and encouraged in any way to this community enterprise to help and encourage those families which are experiencing difficult and traumatic times in their lives.

Well done everyone – and thank you so much.

Rev Terry Sadler, Narrabri

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