Red Cross volunteer finds community spirit in adversity

WHAT do you get when you mix a simple cup of tea with a friendly chat?

A smile.

When Mother Nature strikes with floods, bushfires or cyclones around the country, Wellington resident Belinda Ledgard is at the scene making sure people can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mrs Ledgard, an Australian Red Cross emergency services personal support team leader, said she loved every minute of her voluntary role.

She assisted residents during the Moree floods in February, meeting and greeting people at the recovery centre, outreaching and door-knocking to make sure people who could not evacuate were safe.

"It was heart-breaking to see so many people suffering but on the other hand their inner strength came out," she said.

"We had people who lost everything come and ask us about their neighbour and how they were.

"They showed more concern about others than themselves.

"It brought out a great community spirit."

The people who had been hit with a natural disaster told her what they needed such as housing or food and she directed them to the right services.

The affected residents needed personal support more than anything else.

Mrs Ledgard said this was not a counselling service but sitting and hearing someone tell their story and vent their troubles and concerns.

This made a world of difference to them because they felt someone cared and there was still hope in the darkness of a disaster.

"Just that cup of tea you've made for them makes them feel human again," she said.

"They realise they haven't lost everything even though they really did.

"Seeing that smile on their face is priceless to me."

Mrs Ledgard said the hardest part of her role was wandering whether she did her best for the person in need or whether she could have done a little more.

As a team leader, she said, she did not consider herself better than any of her colleagues but worked with them as equals.

Some of the volunteers had been serving for a longer time than her and she continuously learnt from them all.

Mrs Ledgard also juggled a paid position as an emergency services project officer at the Australian Red Cross Regional Office in Dubbo.

She encouraged Dubbo residents to experience the joy of volunteering and helping other people.

"You learn more about yourself, build self-esteem, confidence and meet new and interesting people who could be lifelong friends," she said.

"Knowing you can help someone else and seeing that smile makes it all worthwhile."

abanob.saad@ruralpress.com

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