- DEMI LYNCH -
Ophelia Haragli is Australia's ultimate unsung hero.
Through her Facebook page 'My Sister's Keeper,' she has collected donations to provide respiratory masks for firefighters tackling the national bushfire crisis.
More than 1500 firefighters' have received these masks.
Like many other Australians across the country Ophelia "felt helpless" when the country was overtaken with fires.
She posted on her Facebook page,
"When I was watching the fires unfold and reading about all the horror... I felt powerless. I can't fight fires. I can't rebuild homes. Andrew was the first firefighter I read about who spoke about masks. So I 'hunted' him down. But not before I did my research on masks and called fifty companies to get all the specs on masks that are made to endure and to filter ALL the crap that comes out of fires. And then I posted and saw that everyone on here was just as impassioned about helping these volunteers as I am and are feeling as powerless as I am too. And given that I advocate for cancer patients and I talk to people everyday about their health it seemed the most logical thing to do...to roll out masks to protect our volunteers from the short and long term implications of breathing in that shit."
Ophelia has travelled across New South Wales handing out respiratory masks to firefighters in need.
On one occasion she even travelled 700km in one day.
But it hasn't been easy for Ophelia, she is a breast cancer survivor that's sadly still trying to survive.
Battling cancer and undergoing treatment has left Ophelia with cognitive issues, constant fatigue and throbbing pain throughout her body.
“I’ve had breast cancer so I’ve got a multitude of disabilities," she said, "so most of the time I’ll get my friends to drive me - there's also been people I've met off the Facebook page that have helped out and yeah we just spend the day out delivering masks."
Through these travels Ophelia has seen the devastation of the fires, including the burnt lands and injured wildlife.
"We went past a little town and there was just animals everywhere dead on the side of the road. And I remember seeing a koala dead lying on it’s back on the side of the road with it’s arms up. It was kind of traumatic. The smoke was just horrendous and the destruction over there is just horrible."
By dropping off the respiratory masks to fire stations and giving them to the firefighters in person Ophelia has been able hear their stories.
She spoke to firefighters that are continuing to fight the fires when injured.
She spoke to some that are taking on the fires while battling cancer.
And she spoke to parents that have sick kids but are still out there fighting these bushfires.
"They’re everyday people just like us," Ophelia said, "they have lives, they have work, they have families and they’re doing all that whilst fighting the fires."
If you would like to help Ophelia and sponsor a respiratory mask for a firefighter in need head to 'My Sisters Keeper' on Facebook.
Announcer & Producer of 'The Nasty Woman Club Podcast'
Co-Producer & Co-Announcer of Radio 4EB program 'Fair Comment'