Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 12:47 UK
Hungry to learn across the world

Bush fires in Victoria, Australia, Feb 2009

School pupils affected by natural disasters have been sending their stories to BBC News.

Amy was evacuated from her home in Healesville, Victoria, Australia in February, when bush fires closed in on her town. She describes what happened to her house and how school is helping her to recover.

We made a decision in the morning to go the pool because Mum was worried that if a fire came we would be trapped.

I spent the afternoon at the pool with my friend Kirra and my dad was listening to the radio for an hour to see if there was any fires nearby.

Mum kept saying over and over: 'We're not going home'

Victoria, Australia

According to the radio, there was nothing near Chum Creek or Yarra Glen or anything like that.

While we were at the pool we noticed that the sun was red because there was smoke in the air.

Mum started getting worried because our friend who has lived here for three generations came to pick up his kids from the pool because he was worried.

Mum said: 'If he's worried, we should be'.

In the meantime, while we were swimming, we kept getting muffled messages on mum's phone which we couldn't hear properly.

Lots of people were trying to call us because they knew about the fires (although we didn't yet) and they thought we were home.


We were the third last people to leave the pool which had been really busy that day, but we had to leave because Kirra's mum rang.

She said she'd like Kirra home because she was worried and would be happier if Kirra was at home with them.

Kirra lives on the same road as my aunty, as we were driving down the road, everyone was outside of their houses, pointing back at the hills that I live on.

We turned around and we saw all the fires on the hill behind us.

Bush fires in Victoria, Australia, Feb 2009

When I saw the fires I felt nervous. Mum kept saying over and over 'We're not going home'.

My brother Ben said 'I want to go live in London'. I think he said that because he was scared.

My dad stayed at my aunty's house while we dropped Kirra off down the road. Kirra's family said if we needed to we could stay with them, but we said we would stay with my aunty.

We hadn't brought any of our clothes or belongings with us when we left home that morning, so we just had our bathers.

'Just in time'

My oma [gran] lives on the hill near us and my mum was getting worried about her. We tried to call her but we couldn't get hold of her, which made me feel worried.

I was really worried about our animals, especially my dog

Victoria, Australia

Then after 10 minutes my oma arrived at my aunty's house. I was very happy that she was safe.

She said that she had been sleeping on the couch and her husband Tony had been in the shower when they heard all this noise.

He went outside and called oma and they saw all the flames on the road behind theirs.

They got in the car and took a different road down to the main road and managed to get out just in time because the wind changed direction.

Surveying a house destroyed by bush fires in Victoria, February 2009

My dad wanted to go up and get our animals, but mum said no because she thought the fire had probably already gone through, so there wouldn't be much point, and she was worried he might get caught up there.

My dad and my uncle went up to my school which has a good view of all the hills around our town, and they had a look.

They noticed that the hill behind my sunty's house was on fire, so we just kept an eye out.

It was very smoky. We stayed outside watching the fires on the hills around us and were ready to go if we needed to.

'Really worried'

I was really worried about our animals, especially my dog because I knew he had been chained up under the house, because that was the coolest place and we had left him there to keep him out of the heat.

I cried for long time, with my oma [gran] hanging onto me

Victoria, Australia

After a while we went back inside and watched the news. There were lots of stories about fires and people talking about how they had escaped.

My brother Ben and I slept on mattresses on the floor in the spare room and oma and Tony slept in the bed in the other spare room. Mum and dad slept on the couch.

I woke up the next morning and dad and my uncle had already gone up to the property.

They checked my oma's place on the way. We were all really relieved to find her place was ok.

Then they went up to our place and had found that our house had been burned down.

The wreckage of bush fires in Victoria, Australia, 2009

They found both of our dogs and one of our cats, hiding under a little pier in our dam.

Our horses had also managed to dodge the fires without too many burns.

Mum and my aunty took my dog Deuce to the vet. While they were down there waiting for the vet, I had woken up, and my oma gave me a hug.

She told me about our house burning down, and I was very sad. I cried for long time, with my oma hanging onto me.

'Bushfire survivor'

Because I had no clothes, I had to wear one of my aunty's jumpers which was like a dress on me.

My friend Kirra brought me some of her clothes to wear later on the Sunday, then mum and my aunty went and got me some clothes from the shops.

All we could see was smoke, and the sky was red

Victoria, Australia

My dog Deuce was very famous at my nana's house near the beach because he was the only 'bushfire survivor' there.

In the middle of the day on the Monday we had to get evacuated from my aunty's house because the fires were coming closer, so we went to the shops in a town nearby.

Eventually we came home, only to turn on the news and find that they were telling people in Healesville to evacuate. So we left again and went to my other aunty's house.

When we were driving out of Healesville, all we could see was smoke, and the sky was red.

'No school'

I didn't go to school the first week after the fires, I spent my time with my Mum and my aunty, trying to get new clothes.

House being rebuilt after bush fire, Victoria

I was glad to come back to school and see my friends. The other kids were pretty kind to me.

School has helped take my mind off things, and I've had people to talk to if I needed.

In second term, I got a new bike from the school, they had fundraised and bought it for me because they knew I had lost my bike in the fires.

It's a pretty cool bike too! I have also been part of the Book of Light Bushfire Renewal Project, which has given us the chance to help someone in our community who had damage to her farm.

We have been replanting and removing dead plants, as well as helping look after her animals.

It was really fun doing that, I enjoyed meeting kids from another school, who had also been affected by the fires.

It's going to be a bigger house and a bit better - the old house was pretty yuck

Victoria, Australia

Now I'm looking forward to the house rebuilding and getting new animals.

Our frame of our new house is up and the roof might have gone up also I think.

It's going to be a bigger house and a bit better because the old house was pretty yuck in some places, so it'll be nice to have a fresh start, and I got to design my own room, except mum gets to choose where the furniture goes.

'Keep smiling'

Once our fences are rebuilt, we are going to get some goats, new chooks [chickens], bunnies, more dogs, maybe a little alpaca or donkey, some more horses and maybe a few sheep.

We will also get some new turtles. I'm excited about this because I think it will help me feel better about the animals we lost.

One more thing - I have a message to the school children of Padang, Indonesia, whose homes were destroyed by the earthquake.

I hope you recover really well and I hope it doesn't happen again to you.

Be with your friends and try to keep smiling.

Your comments:

I live in Padang and I was affected by the earthquake here. I'd like to ask - do students from other countries have counsellors to help them through problems or do form tutors have this function? Do students who go to these counsellors get a bad reputation as bad students?

Haria, Padang, Indonesia


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