A group of eight people from the Bendigo and Wimmera regions travelled to the Upper Murray in the wake of the New Year's Eve fire to help the community start to rebuild.
Horsham's Amelia Crafter asked some of her students from Longerenong College, as well as friends, if anyone was interested in a trip to Corryong to join a Rotary run camp to help rip down and rebuild fences in the areas.
"One of my best friend's farms is in the region and they had some of their property burnt and I have been there and visited and it's such a great place, so I thought maybe fencing was a way we could help," Ms Crafter said.
"I put the call out and had three students say they wanted to come and also a friend of mine from Horsham.
"One of the students recruited three more people from Bendigo, so we had eight all up and we drove across the state in convoy together and set up camp on Thursday, January 16 which was just over two weeks after the fire went through.
"The area had only just been deemed safe for a volunteer fencing camp and roads were only open to residents and support groups like ourselves. It was a real eye-opening sight driving through the burnt mountains to Corryong."
The Wimmera contingent included Ms Crafter, Courtney Clough and Longereong students Perri Proposch, Georgia Cole and Miranda Rose.
The group camped in swags at the Rotary run camp, alongside the Australian Defence Force camp and the two groups worked together in the field to rip down and rebuild fences.
"We were up there for five days and it was an incredible experience. We were made to feel so welcome and we tried to support the community while we were there," Ms Crafter said.
"After a long day of dirty work in the heat and smoke haze we went and spent some time at the local pub and we also made sure we didn't bring any food with us and brought everything we needed locally to support the businesses.
"Around the camp there was a great vibe. Everyone was just there to get in and help and work hard. We would eat breakfast together every morning and tea at night and get to know each other. It rained two of the nights we were camping and some of us had some soggy swags but no one complained, everyone just got up and got on with the job with a great attitude. I was so proud of everyone who came along."
Ms Crafter said the group mainly worked on properties close to Corryong or at Cudgewa.
"There is so much work to be done, months of fencing. We worked our first day close to town but the following days were spent on properties around Cudgewa which was a really badly affected area," she said.
"The farmers would come and greet us in the morning and let us know what fencing they wanted ripped down and when we were finished they were incredibly grateful and let us know how much time, that they really didn't have, we had saved them.
"Despite everything they had been through and how fresh and raw it was, they really enjoyed the company, a chat and a laugh.
"We had lunch at one family's house and he was a former Longerenong College student and he got his Diploma and trophies out. It was really special.
"Some things were really hard to see and it showed how recent the blaze was. Finding burnt cattle hooves in the ground was a reminder of how much had been lost and that the livestock clean up had only just taken place. At the same time, seeing fresh growth on the burnt trees was a reminder of resilience and a beautiful contrast to the blackened earth around it."
Ms Crafter said if people want to help bushfire affected areas, they could consider fencing camps.
"I don't have huge amounts of money to donate but I did make some time, as did the rest of our group, and we were able to help that way. It also helps you to have some kind of understanding of the impacts, although I don't think you can really understand it unless you have been through it like they did," she said.
"There are camps set up across the state at almost all bushfire affected areas and some are run by local groups or often by BlazeAid and they are a great organisation to contact if you are interested.
"We are looking at doing another trip up in a couple of months because there is so much work to be done and we all want to get back to see the people we met again, so hopefully we can get even more people next time."
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