Bringing hope in midst of disaster
8 October 2015
“What works so well with The Salvation Army Emergency Services model is that with one phone call, we can set the wheels in motion for provision of meals to a large number of our people and they actually have it operating within an hour or two.” – Mark McKay, acting Zone Commander Fire and Rescue NSW (during Hunter, NSW storms, April, 2015.)
At the age of 13, as the son of Salvation Army officers, Gavin Hope remembers his dad driving a car through floods in the Illawarra while he and the family jumped in and out, distributing food to those who were stranded. That was the beginning of 38 years – to date – of passionate volunteering through The Salvation Army at the coalface of floods, fires and storms; plus ongoing training of new volunteers.
Today, Gavin volunteers as assistant to Hans Schryver, The Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) coordinator for the Newcastle and Central NSW Division. Gavin’s role is one that he calmly goes about as “trouble shooter”. He knows the drill well.
When an emergency hits, he travels to an emergency site, or nearby Salvos centre or corps with supplies, truck or trailer. He helps organise menus, opens accounts at local supermarkets, seeks donations, and things such as cool rooms, generators and extra volunteers.
“Gavin acts as a brilliant ‘right-hand man’ and nothing is too much or too difficult for him, even in some very difficult circumstances,” says Hans. “Times when there is no power, and limited communications. He really is a God-send.”
During the highly-destructive Hunter and Central Coast storms in April this year, which included ‘cyclonic winds’, flooding that took three lives and caused massive destruction, Gavin and teams of officers, soldiers and volunteers from Salvation Army churches and centres up and down the coast pulled together, manning multiple emergency services feeding points and evacuation centres.
Gavin had a key role, helping Hans to organise the 150-strong Salvation Army team who, during the storms, made and served around 8000 meals and refreshments; made up hundreds of food hampers for those who were stranded; organised more than 100 pallets of food for cut-off communities and much more into the recovery phase.
For Gavin, a good attitude is essential in the role. “You turn up at a really bad point in people’s lives when they have had homes damaged or destroyed, or they are stranded, or have no power. Sometimes you cry with these poor people, but it’s also good to be positive and encouraging for them,” he says.
“It is full-on, but I love it. I'm really thankful for the support from my wife Debbie and daughters Rebecca, Samantha and Hannah. I miss them so much when I head away for a period of time, but they understand what I do and why I do it. None of us need recognition. What we do is just what needs to be done. We are just there to help people when they really, really need a hand!”
By Naomi Singlehurst