Two of YWAM’s own, Jennifer Rentsch and Rebekah Hoover, were honoured with a Community Volunteer Award last weekend as part of Townsville’s Australia Day Awards.
The awards were given in recognition of Jennifer and Rebekah’s leadership in coordinating YWAM Townsville’s flood recovery efforts in response to the unprecedented monsoonal event that hit Townsville last year.
At the request of the Mayor, YWAM opened an evacuation centre which housed an average of 50 people each night. YWAM then joined the Townsville City Council’s Human and Social Services Recovery sub-group and agreed to coordinate the “Team Townsville – Social Sweep.” This “sweep” met an immediate social need in the community ensuring residents were ‘OK’ and were connected to the help and services they needed for recovery.
Jennifer and Rebekah filled a critical role in the execution of this sweep, ensuring that the Team Townsville efforts were meaningfully and significantly contributing to the bigger picture of the flood recovery in Townsville. They oversaw and co-facilitated the recruitment and orientation of volunteers from a range of backgrounds from the Townsville Community.
Over one metre of rain fell in a week, impacting over 20,000 homes.
They also jointly coordinated planning and strategy, facilitating the engagement efforts of these volunteers, who systematically went door-to-door to visit each home in the hardest hit suburbs of Townsville over the ten weeks following the flooding. Additionally, they oversaw the establishment of a call-centre to be able to field calls from community members in relation to disaster response and services available to help with recovery.
Jennifer and Rebekah’s efforts helped the Team Townsville Social Sweep volunteers to visit over 17,500 homes across 23 suburbs, connecting with local residents, ensuring they were OK and connecting them directly to services available such as funding, wellbeing checks, furniture assistance, mould removal and more.
Hundreds of volunteers were mobilised by YWAM to check in on Townsville residents
A factor that makes Jennifer and Rebekah’s contribution to the Townsville community quite remarkable is that they are both full-time volunteers with YWAM (and have been since 2005), and have received no financial benefit for the services and leadership. They have provided key leadership in YWAM’s engagement throughout Townsville and North Queensland since 2005, and continue to carry significant responsibility within YWAM’s operations in these locations, as well as with the Townsville-based YWAM Medical Ship which provides training and medical services to remote, rural communities in Papua New Guinea for ten months of the year.