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A thousand extra miles to recovery


 

It is eye-opening how many people still need a hand in their recovery, according to Red Cross emergency services volunteer Jeff Hubbard.

Even though many people are still doing it tough, it is so rewarding seeing how Red Cross makes the world of difference, Jeff says.

"I get enjoyment out of helping people. When you see people down on their luck, it is always nice to help. I like what Red Cross stands for. You know that saying 'someone goes that extra mile', well Red Cross goes the extra thousand. How do I know? Because I've done it."

Jeff has spent much of his time over the past year doing everyday emergency services work, assisting hundreds of people affected by the floods right across Queensland.

"It's rewarding seeing the smiles that you get back, seeing the appreciation. And Red Cross looks after me. It's a win-win situation."

Jeff first started work as a volunteer in a Red Cross store. He says after seeing the horrors of the Victorian bushfires he decided to train to become a Red Cross emergency services volunteer.

Jeff did not hear from Red Cross for a while and it was not until towns in Queensland started going under water on 26 December, 2010 that "my phone was going crazy".

Initially, Jeff worked right around Queensland in no less than 12 evacuation and recovery centres from Chinchilla in the south to Cardwell in far north Queensland.

As the Brisbane River rose and flooded inner city suburbs the Queensland Red Cross office had to relocate, which Jeff remembers, added challenges to getting the hundreds of volunteers needed out in to the field. More than 1400 staff and volunteers provided personal support to thousands of people across the state , checking to see how they were coping and ensuring their needs were being looked after.

"I enjoy talking, I was a taxi driver for a long-time," says Jeff, who gained many skills in personal support from listening to people share their life stories over the years.

"A lot of people just wanted somebody to talk to. (Where they needed specific assistance) I referred them on to other agencies and other service providers," often resulting in much needed grants and financial assistance so that people could get simple items like kettles, fridges and white goods. "When we did return, the smile and gratitude made it all worthwhile."

He remembers one woman with five kids who he assisted. "She had absolutely nothing. Now, the house is fully decked out. For me that is a good result. She was very thankful and it was good to help them."

"Where a lot of these people are suffering, is the mental and emotional anguish," he says. Jeff adds that while most people are recovering well, he knows at least one older woman who is still not faring so well. Her area was affected by the enormous flash floods which killed 35 people across southeast Queensland. "She has just moved back home but she is scared. I don't know if she'll ever get over it."

Jeff says there are many stories of people he has assisted that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

Red Cross was there for communities who were in remote areas and risked being forgotten. "I was doing areas that I'd never even heard of. Those areas never got a mention on the TV." While some areas were nearly forgotten, Jeff will not forget them. He was flown in to one town Condamine, by Black Hawk helicopter.

"Condamine, they had a very big hit. They were hit by the floods two times."

Another man from Condamine, Jeff recalls, was living in a tiny place. "He was living in a carport" and the man's landlord had told him that he could move back in to his place, Jeff says. His place was "horrendous … full of mud and toads" so Jeff referred him on to a support service and he was rehoused with a new caravan. "That's a victory.,"Jeff says with a huge smile.

 

Photo: Red Cross volunteer Jeff Hubbard and Red Cross staff member Colin Sivalingum head to Condamine to assist with the Queensland floods response in 2011. Credit: Australian Red Cross
Red Cross volunteer Jeff Hubbard partners with fire agencies in the Queensland floods response in 2011. Credit: Australian Red Cross 

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