WORLD NEWS

Celeste Barber's Fundraiser For Aussie Firefighters Tops $22 Million

The Australian comedian's fundraiser for local fire services battling wildfires has set off a global chain reaction.

Australian comedian Celeste Barber has rallied citizens of the world to donate to the firefighters on the front lines of Australia’s wildfire crisis.

Since the Facebook fundraiser was launched Friday, almost 800,000 people from all corners of the globe have donated a fast-growing total of more than $22 million (almost $32 million Australian dollars) to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

Barber, who is famous for parodying celebrities on Instagram, started the fundraiser after her family was badly struck by fires in the New South Wales south coast town of Eden. 

“This is my mother in laws house. It’s terrifying,” she wrote on Instagram to her 6.5 million followers. “They are scared. They need your help. International donations can be made via the link in my bio.”

“Finally! Someone with an international following raising awareness to how much we are in trouble. Thank you Celeste!!!!!” one commenter wrote on her post. 

“Hi Celeste, me and my mum lost our family’s property (not our permanent home) on Tuesday in the fires,” another commenter wrote on Facebook. “I had a huge collection of books up there that I left for guests who stayed and one of them was yours. The last time I was up there I read your book in the sun on our balcony and laughed so much. Very good memories. I hope more celebrities start garnering some attention because as you say, we really need help.”

Donors on the Facebook fundraiser page shared messages of hope from around the world, from countries including the U.S., Finland, Denmark, the U.K., France, Canada, New Zealand and Germany.

In an Instagram story, Barber said she had spoken to the head of the fire service, who said the fundraiser had given them “a bit of positivity in the terror.”

“We are going to keep pushing,” she said.

Barber said that the funds, which were initially intended for the NSW RFS, will also be distributed to firefighters in the states of Victoria and South Australia. She said she’d been “overwhelmed” with feedback and would work with relevant authorities and consult with fire services to get funding to wildlife charities, the Red Cross, and the families of those killed by the fires.

HuffPost has reached out to Barber’s publicist for further information.

On Sunday, as the fundraiser continued to climb by around $10,000 a minute, Barber shared a video of her mother-in-law Joy Robin from bushfire-ravaged Eden, where the sky was a frightening shade of orange. She was upset and emotional as she called out the government for leaving them “high and dry.”

Since the fundraiser’s launch, singer Pink and actor Nicole Kidman have pledged $500,000 each to local fire services in bushfire-affected states of Australia.

“I am totally devastated watching what is happening in Australia right now with the horrific bushfires. I am pledging a donation of $500,000 directly to the local fire services that are battling so hard on the frontlines. My heart goes out to our friends and family in Oz,” Pink wrote on Saturday.

Kidman, who was reportedly in tears during a Golden Globes event in Los Angeles on Saturday, said her and her partner Keith Urban’s “support, thoughts and prayers” were with all those affected in Australia.

The link to Barber’s fundraiser was also shared by singer Lizzo, who is a headliner for Australia’s FOMO festival, “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness, and actors Natalie Portman and Selma Blair.

Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios set off a wave of support in the sporting world when he pledged his support to the cause. Ashleigh Barty, another Aussie tennis player, pledged to donate her entire $250,000 prize if she wins Brisbane International. Five-time grand slam winner Maria Sharapova, who is in the country ahead of the upcoming Australian Open, promised a $25,000 donation and urged World No. 2 Novak Djokovic to match it.

At the Golden Globes on Sunday, “Fleabag” star Phoebe Waller-Bridge announced backstage that she would auction off the Ralph Russo suit she wore to the awards ceremony and donate the money to Australia’s fire relief. Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Ellen DeGeneres and Pierce Brosnan used their speeches to bring attention to the crisis.

Other celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez, have all pledged and urged support for those affected by fires, which have killed 23 people, razed more than 1,500 homes, and burnt through more than five million hectares. Close to half a billion animals are feared dead, according to estimates from ecologists.

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