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Blessed to Serve: Hawkesbury Flood Response


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Santo Celi barely escaped after flood waters rose through his house in Wisemans Ferry. He got in his car thinking he could get out. It all happened so quickly.

“By the time I took my car out, I was too late. I nearly drowned,” Santo recalled. “A gentleman who lives nearby got on top of the car to pull me out, and as we walked away all I could see was the bonnet of the car sticking up and then – bang – it went under. It all happened in 3 minutes.”

Muddy water filled his house, leaving many of his personal belongings and electrical appliances unsalvageable. When the floods engulfed his car, his pet cat on the back seat also drowned. It was a miracle Santo survived.

“I just wanted to get out,” he said. “Now when I think about it, I get the shivers because that was close, just a matter of minutes.”

Santo and his neighbours were caught in the historic flooding that swept through New South Wales in mid-March.

Samaritan’s Purse volunteers were helping Santo’s next-door-neighbour when he first met them.

“I saw them all working next door and I thought who are all of these people,” he said. “My granddaughter asked them to come and have a look at my house. When they said they could help, I asked them when and they said now. Then, the whole gang of orange shirts came together and worked.”

Our volunteers helped Santo sort through his sodden belongings, clear debris and dispose mouldy contents — all while listening, encouraging and comforting Santo.

“It was like an angel was looking after me,” Santo said. “I cannot thank you enough.”

Our teams have been hard at work, helping in Jesus’ Name to ease the burden on homeowners like Santo — cleaning up the mess and offering encouragement as people process the traumatic experiences of such a sudden disaster.

“Without the volunteers it would’ve taken a long time,” Santo said. “They even took the rubbish away! Thank you — what else can I say.”

Bringing Hope Beyond the Office

On 20 April, many of the ‘orange shirts’ serving in Santo’s community were Samaritan’s Purse staff from the head office, based in Sydney. Samaritan’s Purse staff joined our Disaster Relief volunteers for a day, helping flood-affected homeowners take the first step towards recovery. Read about their experiences:

Arne, Donor Relations

“It was so rewarding to see the relief on the face of the two homeowners we helped. In Santo’s home, all of his tools were stored under the house – the flood had buried them in the mud and it was impossible for the him to bend down and unearth everything in the damp and cramped conditions, however our team moved all of the contents out in less than two hours for him. Santo was overjoyed!”

Jackie, International Projects

“I’ll never forget the smell of the dampness. As a team, we all banded together, dug in and got to work, removing waterlogged contents and furniture. One mattress that we carried out had been in the house for three weeks since the floods and as we moved it out, water started coming out! The family would have had to pay people to come in or even do it themselves. I was so thankful that our team could help someone who in need of hope.”

Meredith, Marketing

“As soon as we started cleaning, with many hands, we achieved so much. Volunteering with Samaritan’s Purse is such a simple way to show someone you care about them and make a genuine impact on their life.”

Frances, Donor Support

“It was so rewarding to help clean the homes. I felt like I was able to bring some sunshine into people’s spirits in a practical way and I was blessed myself hearing their stories.”

Daniel, Disaster Relief

“It was wonderful to have the staff from the Samaritan’s Purse office come out and lend a hand. It was encouraging to volunteers, and a memorable experience for the staff to have the opportunity to serve as part of our disaster relief team to meet the physical needs of homeowners following the floods.”

Support Our Work

When disasters strike, Samaritan’s Purse responds quickly to bring relief to people in need. Your gift today can help us provide a lifeline to a family that has lost everything, to help them get back on their feet.

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