There was a time when David Lee wondered if he would just watch the world go by, but he overcame life-threatening injuries to become a volunteer with Aussie Helpers.
Recently back from his sixth trip interstate with the charity, Mr Lee’s partial blindness has not stopped him from helping others less fortunate.
A mixed-enterprise farmer since he left school in 1982, Mr Lee’s life changed when he had an accident on his farm on Valentine’s Day 17 years ago.
He was hit in the head by a power pole, which resulted in head injuries, several surgeries and eight weeks in hospital.
“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had blood in between my pupil and retina and there was damage to my optic nerve,” Mr Lee said.
“I had a 95 per chance of being a vegetable, but I just got on with life.”
At the time of his accident David and Alison Lee’s children Chloe and Scott were 2 and 4, and the family was midway through building their Westbury home.
“My wife oversaw [the build]. I‘ve had a lot of help from my wife and kids,” he said,
Driving a car is now off limits, but a bicycle is his preferred mode of transport.
Usually volunteering to repair fences after floods or during drought, this time Mr Lee was feeding cattle at a Running Stream property in central western NSW.
“The lady was 79 and her partner had died. She had a farmer [to help] but he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament,” he said.
Mr Lee, who is also the Westbury Rotary Club president, first became involved with Aussie Helpers in 2011, when the owner of the Westbury service station was asked if he knew of anyone who could help with fencing at Emerald.
“He thought of me and I said ‘you know my situation’. He said, ‘you know where your fingers are’”.
Mr Lee decided he had what it took and put himself forward, becoming one of 10 volunteers who made the trip to Queensland to help repair fences.
“They were due to muster the cattle so we helped with fencing and sorting out and finding water tanks and troughs,” he said.
“A 45,000 litre tank had washed away in the flood. They mustered the week after we came home and found the tank wrapped around a tree.”
Aussie Helpers has also sent him to farming properties at Mundubbera and St Lawrence in Queensland, Wagga Wagga in NSW and Healesville in Victoria.
“They are very interesting places to go and see,” he said.
It is not simply about exploring new places – Mr Lee helps wherever he can.
“The are really nice people, very supportive and grateful for the work we did.”
And he helps closer to home too.
Mr Lee was one of many Aussie Helpers volunteers who refenced areas around the Mersey River after the 2016 floods and cleared up Dunalley after the 2013 bushfires.
“[Aussie Helpers] just call me up when they need someone.”
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