The project was born from the ashes of the Black Summer bushfires.
While the fires burnt through almost half the island, taking with them two lives and countless livestock, they ignited the community’s craving for connection and Sabrina Davis’ passion for storytelling.
Davis created the Humans of Kangaroo Island project as a platform to share Kangaroo Island resident’s stories online with the island and wider community, while bringing the island back to life after its devastation through fundraising.
She moved to the island from Germany in 2009 after falling in love with a Kangaroo Island farmer and beekeeper.
Davis and her husband were living on a sheep farm on the western end of the island with their two young children when the fires took their home in 2020.
“We lost pretty much everything on that farm, including our house,” she says.
“We were pretty much homeless.”
Davis and her children were forced to relocate to family accommodation across the other side of the island, while her husband stayed on the farm to rebuild it.
“We were 100 kilometres away from him in Kingscote in a new community,” she said.
“While you do know most of the people on Kangaroo Island, you still don’t really know them well, so it was a very new neighbourhood for me.”
She said with COVID-19 striking soon after and slowing the recovery process, she felt as if she had lost all her neighbours.
“We were all in our own little isolation bubbles rebuilding on our farm and cleaning up.
“I really missed all of them and I felt quite vulnerable mentally.”
She decided to catch up with a friend to talk about life and challenges they had faced; she documented and shared it on social media with a picture for others to see.
“I published the first story and instantly had quite a few followers,” she said.
“People were really craving that — hearing how their friends and neighbours were going.
“They were feeling inspired, uplifted and connected by the story, and so it gave me a good purpose at the time when I was finding it hard to get out of bed.”
Davis’s list of interviewees grew rapidly, as well as her friendships in the community.
One year on, the project has grown into a community of more than 2000 followers from Kangaroo Island and around the world and Davis has shared hundreds of islander stories.
Davis says the project has not only become a platform for people to learn about the island’s history and diversity but has also brought the Kangaroo Island community of 4500 residents closer together.
“It has created a beautiful connection between all of us and it opened up this little online community too where people offer help to each other,” she says.
“It’s a lot of kindness that was already part of our community, but we just amplified it.”
She says it’s created a space to build unique relationships and opportunities and fostered global connections at a time when travelling is restricted.
As a part of the Humans of Kangaroo Island project, Davis created a fundraiser in November last year leading into the new fire season to reequip local farm firefighters with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and recognise their sacrifices.
“For decades, farm firefighters go out every summer to help community members protect their assets and lives, and they do this without remuneration,” she says.
“In the Black Summer fires, they went out for 45 days in a row; they didn’t make anything on their own farm and they have to fully equip themselves.”
Her target was to raise $15,000 to equip 105 firefighters with PPE kits.
She has now reached over $60,000 with 225 firefighters fully equipped with donations still flowing in.
Davis has continued to expand the project’s impact with the upcoming Humans of Kangaroo Island Film and Literature Festival to take place in October.
The fundraiser will bring people together – in person – and celebrate the creative works islanders produced during COVID-19, such as films, poetry and books.
She says she wants to continue to support community initiatives and doing that together is how people can make a difference.
“Everyone has so much to share so much to give,” she says.
“There’s always something in every little story that at least one person can take something out of.”
This is story is part of Solstice Media’s Regional Showcase series and awards program. Each week we will bring our readers regional news stories that matter as well as some inspirational tales of individuals and communities doing what country people do best – having a go.
If you have a tale to tell or know of one, get in touch at South Australian Regional Showcase.
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