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  • 'Devastated, Helpless and Heartbroken'

    A BMS Australia employee reflects on the recent bushfires

    February 05, 2020 | By Alison Melville, BMS Corporate Affairs Lead for Australia and New Zealand

    D

    evastated,?helpless and heartbroken. These are just a few words that describe how I was feeling on New?Year’s?Eve 2019 in Australia?watching my country burn, on fire?like I?have never seen before.

    Three-year-old Lowen looks out over the haze of smoke from nearby bushfires shrouding Melbourne.

    Three-year-old Lowen looks out over the haze of smoke from nearby bushfires shrouding Melbourne.

    I have a two-year-old?daughter?and a three-year-old-son?and I did?not?know how to explain?to them?the tragic images that they saw glimpses of on the TV.?As?a mum it felt wrong to pretend that there was nothing wrong.?Rather?than?focus on the destruction of the fires, I found it helpful to focus on the good we can see in this moment of everyone pulling together and how we all help each other out when times are tough.?

    What’s happening in Australia is?not something a child can easily understand.?I?too?still?struggle?to comprehend the scale of this?unprecedented?disaster:?At least?30?people?have been killed, more?than?1.25 billion?animals?are estimated dead,?some?25?million?acres?are burned, and the fires are still burning.?

    My friends, colleagues’ friends and families?have lost their?homes. Businesses,?towns?and?entire communities have been displaced. Tourist towns have no tourists.?People?ask?me, “Ali,?are you OK?” I am OK, but so many are not around our beautiful country.?

    I grew up in Gippsland,?a?part of?southeast Australia?rich with agriculture and wildlife,?and an area that has been devastated by these?recent?bushfires.?A country girl, I am used to fires and floods?but?nothing could prepare me for this bushfire?season.?I was born in Omeo,?a?high-country town in the mountain ranges?of Gippsland.??It’s a tough, close-knit community where no one leaves anyone behind.?As?I write?this,?Omeo?is being evacuated as fires loom in the high country.??Branches are smouldering on our?ridges,?our wildlife is seeking refuge. We emerge from the flames in the best way we can and help others in every way possible. And?it is still only the beginning of the fire season.?

    Fires rage under plumes of smoke in Bairnsdale, Australia, in this Dec. 30, 2019, photo from the Associated Press.

    Fires rage under plumes of smoke in Bairnsdale, Australia, in this Dec. 30, 2019, photo from the Associated Press.

    All my?Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) colleagues have?a story. We are all impacted in some?way?or another.?The fires spread?quickly?in late December?when many were away?for a holiday break. Most had?gone?to the coast.?It’s the Australian way. We turn off our phones, we load our cars with surfboards?and Christmas presents?and enjoy our Australian summer.?The fires hit the?coastline?area hard, making?for?some close calls?for employees escaping danger. It also created?challenges?for our?Environment, Health & Safety (EHS)? and Crisis?teams?as they worked to?contact?nearly 400?employees?to?ensure they were safe.

    Thankfully,?the teams were?able to?account for everyone’s physical safety.?The mental impact of course continues.?BMS has been incredibly supportive?as employees strive?to get back to normality?in?work and life.?Thanks to?this?support and?thanks to the?resilience?of our colleagues, the important?work of BMS continues.?

    Alison Melville, Corporate Affairs lead for Australia and New Zealand, with daughter, Goldie, and son, Lowen.

    Alison Melville, Corporate Affairs lead for Australia and New Zealand, with daughter, Goldie, and son, Lowen.

    Working?closely?with?its?distribution and supply partners,?BMS?has been able to provide for?uninterrupted?supply?of?medicines for patients across this?very wide and expansive?country. Everyone has?worked towards?this?goal.

    It is difficult to put into words how?we are?feeling right now?at?BMS in Australia.? Much like the rest of Australia, we are feeling both heartbroken and proud to be part of this beautiful country. Heartbroken by the fires that continue to ravage our homes, and the devastating loss of human and animal life, but still so proud to stand alongside so many incredible and selfless people. To those who have experienced loss, my heart is goes out to you. To those volunteering their time to provide aid and stop the fires, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Also, like the rest of Australia,?we?are moved by?the generosity of spirit?behind the?donations?that are coming into our country from?around the world.??This includes the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation which?has?made a donation of?$50,000 to the?Australia?Red Cross and is matching the amount donated by?BMS employees.??

    The recovery will be?complex?and ongoing. It?will take everyone working together to help save our?country, our patients, our animals?and our planet. Now is the time to take a stance and think about how we can collectively contribute to looking after our planet for the next generation.

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