Staff and pupils at Gaywood’s Howard Junior School have launched a fundraising drive. Pictures: Ian Burt

The West Norfolk community is coming together to support families and wildlife affected by the devastating bushfires in Australia.

Record-breaking temperatures and months of drought have contributed to deadly wildfires across the country.

More than 20 people have died since September and thousands of homes have been destroyed, while an estimated one billion animals have been killed.

With fires expected to burn for several more weeks, school children, community groups, businesses and Australian nationals across the area are rallying to help.

Australian Peta Steel lived in Davidson, a suburb of northern Sydney until almost a year ago when she moved to Hunstanton with her husband Neil Tidbury.

Mrs Steel, 47, is making pouches for the injured wildlife and has appealed for donations of materials.

She has friends who have been affected by the fires and was in Davidson in November and saw first-hand the smoke.

“I thought the house was on fire, the smoke was so bad, and that was back in November,” said Mrs Steel, who is a part-time counsellor.

“I have been waking up, reading the newspapers and looking at Facebook in tears and thinking what can  I do?”

Since asking for materials on the Hunstanton Area Facebook page, Mrs Steel said she had been “overwhelmed” by the response, including from a woman from Scotland wanting to donate materials.

She is planning to send pouches to her home country via the UK division of the Animal Rescue Collective Craft Guild. See its Facebook page for details.

The guild is appealing for pouches, wraps, quilts and blankets for the injured animals.

Mrs Steel said several shops in Hunstanton were also supporting her efforts and she has set up  a dedicated Facebook page Love from over the Pond for people to share posts  and pictures and find out more about how they can help.

Since setting up the Facebook page this week she has had more than 200 people sign up.

Mrs Steel is looking for donations of 100 per cent natural fibres such as cotton, bamboo, linen or blends of these. The pouches will be used to help a variety of wildlife including possums, koalas, kangaroos and wallabies.

Mrs Steel praised people for their support saying: “It is amazing to feel all the support in this country.”

Members of the three Rotary Clubs in King’s Lynn will be out in force tomorrow (Saturday) to collect donations.

Around 30 members will be taking part in bucket collections outside Boots and M&S in Lynn High Street and at Asda in South Wootton between 9am and 4pm. 

The last time the clubs worked  together in a similar way was following the 2004 tsunami and together they collected £10,000 in one day.

Bill Irwin, of the Rotary Club of King’s Lynn, who is co-ordinating the event, said: “We have seen all the devastation, the millions of animals which have been killed, it’s going to take a long time to put this right. 

“The three clubs are coming for one day to help raise as much money as we can for this very important cause. 

“People can donate and we have contacts in Australia where the money will immediately be sent over there and used straight away.

“On a soppier note, Australians helped us in two world wars so it’s our turn to help them.”

Rotary clubs in Australia are helping the professional first response organisations with recovery and restoration and those who have been displaced, establishing a central fund to support victims.

Staff and pupils at Howard Junior School in Gaywood have been inspired to launch a major fundraising drive to help, with a special assembly and a host of activities planned.

The children have made a giant koala picture which will be covered in coins and some teachers and youngsters had their faces painted as koalas to highlight the cause. 

Headteacher Gregory Hill donated the first £50 to get the fundraising total off the ground.

Teaching staff, from left, Hannah Gidman, Rob Parsons and Jack Curl with Howard pupils. Picture: Ian Burt

He said: “We know there is a climate emergency with Australia and what has upset the children is the billion animals which have died. 

“We want to do something about it, so we are hoping to fill the giant koala picture with coins to raise £1,000.”

This week, the school welcomed class teacher Hannah Gidman who comes from Perth, Western Australia.

“Miss Gidman has seen what we are doing and has been telling people in Australia we are trying to help. 

“We have had a special assembly about the crisis and have planned multiple events to raise money. 

“It’s a climate emergency and the children want to help,” he said.

Mr Hill also urged other schools to follow suit and get involved in raising funds and awareness about helping Australia and the environment.

Picture: Pixabay

“If every school did the same, and we all worked together, we could make millions of pounds. We want to spread an environmental message and will be doing so through social media,” he added.

If you can help Mrs Steel’s appeal you can get in touch with her via email at lovefromoverthepond@gmail.com or see her Facebook page Love from over the Pond.

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