Student website goes national to help bushfire victims find homes

Daniel Ferguson. Photo Khushi Gaikwad.
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A final year Swinburne University computer science student’s entrepreneurial idea has turned into a national initiative. Khushi Gaikwad reports.

In the middle of this summer’s bushfire chaos, a 22-year-old Swinburne student founded an online platform that has now become a national initiative helping thousands of people.

Computer Science student Daniel Ferguson’s Helping Homes website was created to pair bushfire victims who lost their homes with temporary housing.

 “We started on a $5 per month server expecting only a few hundred people to use our website, but within two weeks we were getting thousands of people advertising and wanting to help,” Mr Ferguson said.

“We have reached over 50,000 people through the website, and over 1000 homes have been registered.”

Mr Ferguson’s initiative started in Victoria as Helping Homes and then went national within three days.

It has become a larger organisation called the Helping Group, now with multiple initiatives, Helping Homes being one of them and a second one which is yet to be publicly announced.

Mr Ferguson said the inspiration for Helping Homes came out of personal experience.

“Having experienced evacuating due to bushfires in the past myself, I know how hard it can be … I wanted to do more than just donate,” he said.

“I am a philanthropist, but not a huge spender. I would rather donate my time, and be hands-on in order to make a direct, positive impact.”

In the past, Mr Ferguson also volunteered at holiday camps and taught overseas in Fijian villages.

“I find joy in seeing other people happy,” he said. “If you can help, you should help.”

Mr Ferguson said he wanted to change what the community expected from charities during natural disasters.

“I want to become a ‘transparent donating platform’, where all the money collected goes to relief funds and victims. I always donate and want to do more.”

Mr Ferguson said the organisation had big projects lined up for the near future, all focusing on helping the community and those who have been recently affected by bushfires or the current global pandemic.

Helping Group head of communications Kasenya Turner, a long-time friend of Mr Ferguson,

Ms Turner said as a group, they want to put the power back into the hands of the Australian people.

“Dan is great to work with, he is very smart, his brain runs at a million miles an hour, constantly coming up with new ideas every day. Working with him is a great opportunity.”