As devastating bushfires continue to burn across parts of Australia, a comedian from the country decided to call on her social media followers for help. And boy, did they step up.
In the space of just four days, Celeste Barber’s 8.3 million global followers across Facebook and Instagram have so far raised $30 million in a fundraiser for New South Wales’ rural firefighting efforts. That’s mighty impressive for a campaign that launched with a target of just $30,000.
“Want to join me in supporting a good cause?” Barber wrote on her Facebook page at the launch of her campaign over the weekend. “I’m raising money for The Trustee for New South Wales Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate a lot or a little. Anything helps. Thank you for your support.”
Barber indicated that some of the money would go toward buying protective masks for volunteer firefighters. Writing on Twitter, the comedian said the masks would “change the lives of firefighters forever because they wouldn’t be exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens that they are currently exposed to due to the negligence of the state government.”
Indeed, many Australian politicians have been criticized for what’s been seen as an inadequate response to the out-of-control bushfires.
In the last three months, the ongoing blazes have killed 24 people and destroyed more than 1,200 homes across New South Wales, where around 140 separate fires are burning, and neighboring Victoria, where 31 fires are currently burning.
The hot, dry weather during what is currently the Australian summer means the fires could go on burning for several more months.
In a bid to help those affected by the disaster, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who himself recently came under fire for going on vacation to Hawaii as the crisis worsened, last weekend announced a plan for a new National Bushfire Recovery Agency aimed at coordinating a national response to rebuild the communities and livelihoods hit by the bushfires.
Barber’s fundraising campaign is continuing to pull in cash from kindhearted folks around the world.
In a video on her Facebook page, the comedian said: “So many people need help I can’t wrap my head around it … so much wildlife, it’s absolutely devastating.”
She added: “I’m going to keep pushing. I think we get as much as we can. I mean, we’ve already got so much but we have to help people completely rebuild their lives.”
With way more money coming in than expected, Barber said she planned to talk with the Rural Fire Service & Brigades this week about how the funds can be most effectively used, and promised to post an update once she has more information.