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Cobargo children return to school after NSW bushfires and backpack donations

Children have returned to school after their tiny town in country New South Wales was devastated by bushfires. 

The small heritage village of Cobargo looked ‘apocalyptic’ when a devastating bushfire killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes on New Year’s Eve.   

Four weeks on, life is slowly returning back to normal in the blaze-ravaged town as children attended their first day of school with new backpacks donated by kind-hearted Australians.   

Children play on their first day back at Cobargo Primary School in south-east NSW on Wednesday. Just four weeks earlier, a devastating bushfire tore through the tiny town 

A Cobargo resident, Gary Hinton, stands near rubble after a fire left the town looking 'apocalyptic' when it killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes on New Year's Eve

A Cobargo resident, Gary Hinton, stands near rubble after a fire left the town looking ‘apocalyptic’ when it killed two people and destroyed dozens of homes on New Year’s Eve

Mother Clare Rugendyke’s two children Marley and Fletcher were among the cohort to return to Cobargo Primary School in south-east NSW on Wednesday.

Ms Rugendyke said the new school year will create a sense of normality and routine for Marley and Fletcher, in year five and three, after the traumatic bushfires. 

‘I haven’t known what month it is for a while now so it’ll be nice to get some of that routine back … for the kids to get back to their friends,’ she said. 

Although Ms Rugendyke’s home was not burnt down, her parents’ home was. 

As a result, the mother-of-two could not work as much during the school holidays to support her family as her parents were unable to tend to her two children. 

‘My parents lost everything which has been pretty hard, it has a real flow-on effect,’ she said.  

‘My parents’ property still hasn’t been cleared yet and I don’t expect they’ll be able to rebuild soon, we’re looking at 12 months. It’s still quite confronting going to their place.’

Mother Clare Rugendyke and two children Fletcher (left) and Marley (right) received new backpacks donated from a Gold Coast campaign on Tuesday, the day before the term began

Mother Clare Rugendyke and two children Fletcher (left) and Marley (right) received new backpacks donated from a Gold Coast campaign on Tuesday, the day before the term began

Fletcher was welcomed back to school by grandmother Barb (pictured) on Wednesday. Fletcher's grandparents lost their home in the bushfires, which means they were not able to look after their grandchildren over the school holidays

Fletcher was welcomed back to school by grandmother Barb (pictured) on Wednesday. Fletcher’s grandparents lost their home in the bushfires, which means they were not able to look after their grandchildren over the school holidays

Cobargo Principal Gillian Park (centre) welcomed students back for the first day of school. Schoolkids can be seen sporting new backpacks that were kindly donated

Cobargo Principal Gillian Park (centre) welcomed students back for the first day of school. Schoolkids can be seen sporting new backpacks that were kindly donated 

Ms Rugendyke said her children loved picking a new backpack at school on Tuesday, the day before the term began. 

‘It was great not having to worry about all the school essentials on top of other things,’ she said.

Inside each backpack was a lunchbox, drink bottle, books and pencil case filled with stationery.

One girl was pleasantly surprised to open her backpack and discover a note from a donor that read: ‘You are amazing.’ 

‘How nice and generous are some people . Hope everyone received their bags today. This bag had an extra special note in it. How thoughtful. Thank you everyone,’ the Cobaro P&C wrote on Facebook. 

Students hung up their backpacks before going to class for the day. Inside each backpack was a lunch box, drink bottle, books and pencil case filled with stationery

Students hung up their backpacks before going to class for the day. Inside each backpack was a lunch box, drink bottle, books and pencil case filled with stationery

One girl was pleasantly surprised to open her backpack and discover a note from a donor that read: 'You are amazing.'

'How nice and generous are some people . Hope everyone received their bags today. This bag had an extra special note in it. How thoughtful. Thank you everyone,' the Cobaro P&C wrote on Facebook

One girl was pleasantly surprised to open her backpack and discover a note from a donor that read: ‘You are amazing.’ 

Students headed to class after the first school assembly of the year. Four weeks after the bushfires, the children were playing and studying as life returned to normal

Students headed to class after the first school assembly of the year. Four weeks after the bushfires, the children were playing and studying as life returned to normal

The kindhearted initiative was spearheaded by Gold Coast teachers Amanda Wilkinson and Kylie Ricardo with their campaign to source essential school items.

‘We originally had a goal of 100 school bags in mind but very quickly that grew to 400 and then we ended up with 1200,’ Ms Wilkinson said. 

‘It started as a post on social media and just grew, we had people donating everywhere from Hervey Bay to Kingscliff and Ipswich.’  

Ten teacher packs were also provided including memberships to online teaching resources, sticker books, binders, staplers, stationery and posters. 

Children played handball during their lunch break at school. The day before, they collected backpacks from a campaign spearheaded by Gold Coast teachers Amanda Wilkinson and Kylie Ricardo

Children played handball during their lunch break at school. The day before, they collected backpacks from a campaign spearheaded by Gold Coast teachers Amanda Wilkinson and Kylie Ricardo

Year 3/4 teacher Elyce Grest

Year 3/4 teacher Elyce Gresty took the role on the first day back at school. Teachers received memberships to online teaching resources, sticker books, binders, staplers, stationery and posters from the Gold Coast donation campaign 

On the first day of school, children attended assembly, went to class and played handball as life returned back to normal.

However, Cobargo looked looked ‘apocalyptic’ after it was struck by raging fires on New Year’s Eve, killing two people and destroying dozens of shops and homes. 

The community mourned the loss of dairy farmer Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, who died after desperately trying to save their home from the blaze.

Harrowing photos show the town covered in an eerie red haze, with Cobargo’s main street being ripped apart.

Dozens of homes were destroyed, in addition to seven shops along the main street of Cobargo –  some of which were around 100 years old.  

Cobargo in New South Wales' South Coast (pictured) was ravaged by bushfires, turning the once quiet country town into a wasteland on New Years Day

Cobargo in New South Wales’ South Coast (pictured) was ravaged by bushfires, turning the once quiet country town into a wasteland on New Years Day

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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