Healing through stories: How one book supports kids after Northern Rivers floods

Healing through stories: How one book supports kids after Northern Rivers floods

The small town of Coraki has faced a long and arduous journey toward recovery following the devastating 2022 Northern Rivers floods. The floodwaters that swept through the community left homes and schools severely damaged, including the Coraki CWA Preschool, which has spent the past two years rebuilding from one of the worst natural disasters the area has ever experienced.

Amid this challenging recovery, a story of support and resilience has emerged. Donalee Collins, an early childhood educator based in Gosford, has written and illustrated a children’s book titled “Sending Rainbows” to aid the community’s healing process. Collins, who works at Gosford Preschool Inc., was inspired to create the book after children at her service expressed a desire to help the flood victims.

The 50-year-old educator and proud Wiradjuri woman wanted to provide more than just material donations; she sought to give the children of Coraki a message of hope and understanding. “I wanted to give the children of Coraki the emotional understanding that they were not alone at a level they would understand,” Collins explained. “I hoped it would help in their healing journey to know others just like them were thinking of them and that their struggle and strength were seen and that they would see brighter days again.

“It is a story about strength, courage, resilience and love.”

Set in both Gosford and Coraki preschools, the fictional story follows native animals helping each other during the floods, highlighting themes of friendship and solidarity. Collins’ aim was to create a relatable narrative that would engage young readers and prompt discussions about natural disasters and empathy.

A journey to recovery

The 2022 floods wreaked havoc on Coraki, with the Richmond Valley Council’s Flooding Economic Impact Statement reporting that 300 properties were destroyed or damaged, leaving the town of 500 residents isolated for about a week. The preschool itself lost all its furniture, equipment, and resources, with the community banding together to aid in the rebuilding process through donations and grants.

“The children had lost everything that they knew, their homes, toys, and their normality,” said Suzie Carey, Director of Coraki CWA Preschool. “We were fortunate to receive so many donations of resources, money, and grant opportunities.”

The book has already made a significant impact on the Coraki community. “When the book arrived, we were shocked and truly touched to think someone had taken so much time and creativity to create a book just for us,” said Carey.

Collins’ book is not only a tool for emotional recovery but also a means of promoting awareness about natural disasters. She is now working to get “Sending Rainbows” officially published and distributed to early education services and bookstores across the country. Her hope is that the book will continue to be a source of comfort and learning for children and families affected by natural disasters.