Volunteers give bushfire-ravaged yard new life

Dorothy Lowe’s home was saved by her kind neighbours, now her backyard has been saved by strangers.

She evacuated during the October bushfires from her home in Nagle Place, nears Linksview, in Springwood and when she returned the house was still standing after neighbours doused the nearby embers, but the backyard was blackened.

“It was all gone in 20 minutes,” she said “I’m not married and don’t have kids, so my garden was my hobby,” she told the Gazette.

Every day she looked out at the “black earth, trees and rocks ... day in and day out, it was really discouraging.”

Then Habitat for Humanity heard about her plight.

The 63-year-old had no family to assist her and had just had major back surgery so was the perfect candidate for the Christian not-for-profit organisation, which was working alongside the Bushfire Recovery Committee, to assist in the rejuvenation of gardens on fire-affected properties.

Habitat’s NSW program manager Matt Bradhurst organised for 11 staff from Holcim, a leading concrete supplier, to come and assist for a day as part of their corporate social responsibility program in December.

Mr Bradhurst said Habitat is working in the area on homes needing minor repairs, landscaping and general grounds improvement. Cases are prioritised based on whether the affected property owner is either uninsured or underinsured and priority is given to the disadvantaged such as the frail, the aged, residents with a disability, dwellings with young children and those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

Ms Lowe said the young volunteers loaded 12 cubic metres of mulch, three cubic metres of turf underlay and 50 square metres of Sapphire turf in a day. They even installed the watering system she had planned to put in.

“These were young people who normally worked on computers and they worked so hard. It made a fantastic difference.”

She’s now in the process of buying lillypillies, azaleas and camellias to restore the garden to its former beauty.

“They accomplished in nine hours what would have taken me 18 months to achieve if I could have managed it at all. I can plan and plant and replace, I feel so humbled and privileged.”

Habitat has been in Australia for over 25 years and has also built over 120 affordable homes for those in need. With extra flame zone requirements for the Blue Mountains area, the group is focusing on rebuilding gardens and has already fixed four properties and expects to finish another 20 to 30 by the end of June.

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