Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising…

On October 14, many lives were changed forever. I caught up with 3 women affected by the fires to see how they are doing a few months on.

As a community, we all felt it. We all knew someone, a neighbour, work colleague, friends and acquaintances who were affected by the firestorm that hit our idyllic region in October. Whilst hundreds of people have been affected, we thought it would be fitting to check in with a few women as they embark toward new beginnings. Andrea Turner-Boys discovered they are doing so with grace, determination and are finding a deeper level of resilience.

Caitlin Hughes – Mosaic Artist and Teacher – Singles Ridge Road, Winmalee, Now temporarily located in Faulconbridge.

According to Caitlin The days following the fire are understandably a blur. It was Caitlin’s husband that went into action the day after the fires to sort out a rental property for them to live in, and fortunately they found one to move into quickly.

“I’ve realised since the fire Everything is temporary. Although I usually go with the flow, we have all had to adapt, and we have done so fairly quickly” “The generosity was overwhelming”. “A truck arrived full of furniture from an ex display home, and I was able to furnish our new home”. A visual artist who teaches art classes to adults and children, Cailtin needed to find new premises to teach and also replenish all of her mosaic supplies after also losing her studio and artwork in the fire.

Caitlin has now set herself up with a mobile studio, teaching in a local guide hall and the Springwood community arts centre. Classes began again in February and signalled a new normality with her return to business. She is now started her next major works in her new space and is starting to attempt plans for her new home. Its a long road ahead, however Caitlins calm and centred approach will no doubt serve her well in the coming months and the opportunity to express and heal through her art a gift that Caitlin is most grateful for.

Susan Templeman, Director Templeman Consulting, a media and presentation skills training business – Winmalee now temporarily located in Hazelbrook

When people ask me what I am hoping 2014 will bring, I say, “all I want is a totally uneventful year”. After 2013 – running a business, campaigning for a Federal election, turning 50 and then losing my house and home-office in the bushfire, I have had enough excitement to last me a while.

As the primary provider for a family of four adults I didn’t have an option to take time off work and this probably suited me. I seem to cope better with things when I can throw myself into work with no time to think about anything going on outside the training room – a welcome respite, really.

The fire showed me that my business continuity plans worked well and I was able to be back running a training workshop four days after the fire – even if my dress still smelled of smoke.

I was extremely fortunate to have understanding clients who responded well to the fragmentation of my brain in the weeks immediately after the bushfire. Usually I am highly organised and reliable but I found myself telling clients that if I didn’t get back to them within three days would they please send a reminder. Those who had worked with me for years knew it was out of character and were also extremely generous helping me replace work clothes so I can still look and feel like a professional.

SusanAbove: Susan at her now cleared property looking at building plans

So yes, it’s ghastly losing everything – although I count myself lucky that my wonderful home alone son grabbed by work laptop.

Yes, it’s a nightmare replacing documents, redoing paperwork and setting up a new office and it’s hideous the way your brain gives you constant little tugs reminding you of things you’ve lost.

But there is something refreshing about being able to set up an office from scratch. Making conscious choices about what you replace, what you can do without, to do things differently now because the old ways no longer need apply.

Caitlin Interview Fire SurvivorAbove: Caitlin Hughes and Andrea Turner-Boys

Merylese & Joe Mercieca – Blue Eco Homes Winmalee

It’s been an exhausting time but we’re emerging more philosophical and determined. The good news for us is that the rebuilding of our office has started! The repairs to the house may take a bit longer but the urgent parts have been done already. We’re back to working off the dining room table just like 10 years ago but with the addition of a portable shed!

The Biznet appeal to the business community was great – we received office furniture from Abel Furniture Penrith, vouchers from Scenic World and for Office Choice as well as an extended loan of a photocopier/scanner from Inland Technology, which has been invaluable.

Joe joined the recovery committee, which helped us find out what support was available and also helped him focus on the bigger picture. The Housing Industry Association (HIA) and the NSW Business Chamber also provided support and advice. The emotional support we received from other businesses, subcontractors, suppliers and clients was great.

We’ve learnt a few things as a result of this experience: we’re strong, our business is strong and our disaster plan needs upgrading! Joe also learned that he can do technology when it is required!

It also confirmed that we have great friends and family and they are the most important things in life.

We are much more diligent with backing up all work both to hard drives and to the cloud. We are developing lots of new processes and procedures to ensure all IP and data is protected.

To stay strong as a community we really need to continue to support each other and local businesses. We need to be patient with ourselves and others because the healing is still ongoing.

Merylese Blue EcoAbove: Merylese Mercieca

We wish everyone affected by the fire the best for 2014. We would love to hear from you with any updates you would like to share with the community.

Andera Turner-Boys About Andera Turner-Boys

Andrea is a facilitator, trainer and speaker, mentoring women to achieve their goals and growing her network of women whom she believes are ALL inspiring women in their own right. Follow her on her Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn,and Google+

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