Rotary Clubs combine to deliver the Caravan of Hope

The ability of Rotary clubs to work together for the good of the community can never be underestimated. When local optometrist and Hervey Bay City Rotary club member Richard Watt and his wife Gwen were watching the bushfire disaster unfold, they desperately wanted to help the affected communities.

They started a campaign, ‘Hervey Bay adopting fire affected families’ to raise funds, initially to provide some immediate relief. Local residents responded generously to the appeal and one local resident, named Don, decided that he would donate a caravan that was not being used.
‘It’s been sitting in my shed for the last few years, I am sure someone else could make better use of it’ Don said.

Hearing about the plight of the small town of Lake Conjola in NSW where 89 homes had been lost and up to another 50 were considered uninhabitable, it was decided that this would be an ideal location for the caravan.

‘Some residents are living in tents and are desperate for some accommodation’ said Richard, ‘we just need to get it down there’

Richards’ wife Gwen had the answer. With the help of Rotary Clubs along the route seven clubs would be involved in a ‘baton’ relay taking the caravan over nine legs. A coordinated schedule was then set up with members committing to a day and time. Sounds simple enough but required detailed planning and a lot of phone calls.

Local Sunshine coast residents Kath and Ian Aspinall of Caloundra Rotary and Caloundra Pacific Rotary Club are typical of the Rotarians that have offered their time. ‘We are just pleased to be able to help in some way’ said Kath. Other clubs involved include Ballina-on-Richmond, Taree North, Caringbah and Milton–Ulludulla.

The Rotary club of Milton Ulludulla, which will undertake the last leg, are coordinating activities locally, working in conjunction with a small group, the Conjola Recovery Team. Together, they are providing help where it is required and the caravan would be intended as temporary accommodation to be passed on to other families when needed.

Stephen Hladio President of the Milton-Ulludulla club said:  ‘The offer of a permanent gift, not only for immediate support, but for ongoing families suffering terrible hardship, would hopefully bring some form of normality to their lives.’
Fellow club Rotarian, Kirrily Dowling manager of the local Burrill Lake Caravan Park offered a permanent home at the park – a wonderful peaceful location for recuperation.
‘We are indebted to Kirrily and all the volunteers offering their time to bringing the caravan such a long distance to Conjola – this is just an amazing offer and one that can be utilised for many years to come’
The Goldstream caravan, a pop up camper type, is in excellent condition barely nine years old and at over six metres long will provide comfortable six berth accommodation for a needy family.

Hervey Bay City Rotary will kick off the first leg on 19 February with the final leg Sunday 23 February from Caringbah Sunday markets to Lake Conjola a total distance from Hervey Bay of 1700km.