How Global Connection Grew Out of Watching Australia Burn

Stories of people launching fundraising campaigns and collecting donations on social media show how these platforms have the capability for an everyday Joe to become a hero and just how powerful a tool it has become in our lives. This was truly evident while Australia faced millions of burning acres and the loss of human lives and hundreds of millions of animals in the process. Learn how 3 everyday people used social media and its sharing nature to do extraordinary things to lend a helping hand.

1) When local Australian Erin Riley innocently tweeted that she had extra paddocks for evacuees with animals she had no idea she was about to become the founding owner of an organization called FindABed. When her New Year’s Eve tweet quickly gained traction and was retweeted with others offering similar accommodations, Riley rolled up her sleeves and started a database with those volunteers. They began matching people looking for places to those offering help. Read more about her and others with similar stories here

2) Canadian artist, Sara Lee Lake, drew a picture of “Hope” the Koala and printed initially 100 of them – selling for a modest $5 in hopes of raising money for the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. With close to 250 sold in 48 hours, she has raised $1,250 to help care for the animals injured in the fires. Check out her adorable drawing of “Hope” the Koala on her Facebook page.

3) American Instagram model, Kaylen Ward, used her greatest asset to successfully raise $500,000 for Australia’s fire efforts. She put her popularity to work and sent a photo of herself to anyone that proved that they donated a minimum of $10 to Australian Red Cross, Koalas in Care or Australian Lions Foundation. A bit too risky for Instagram, but her efforts helped her raise half a million dollars before her account was shut down for violating Instagram’s terms and conditions. Read Kaylen’s story here

There are debates about the downside of social media over the spread of fake news, bots, the rise of trolls and online bullying, but we have all seen how it can be used for good. And that sheer positive power can be seen firsthand from Australia’s tragedy. 

Jason Samenow, weather editor for The Washington Post, posed an insightful question: If social media existed when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, would there have been more survivors?

He believes, yes. Social media’s resounding echo would have created more of a sense of urgency and an “urgent evacuation effort.” The severity of Katrina would have spread quickly and also would have given a platform for those with inside information to relay the message (such as mayors, governors and weather stations). 

Samenow’s theory seems to have been correct as the Australian fires raged on having a catastrophic effect on humans and wildlife. People used social media to make it a global issue by rising to the occasion and doing what they could for a nation in chaos. 

Social media is not going anywhere and will only become more prevalent in world events, natural disasters, business and influencing consumer trends.