With the bushfires still raging out of control and the government facing criticism that the response to the crisis has been too little and too late, Australia needed a hero. And now (as well as many, many firefighters and other volunteers, of course) it has one. But she's not wearing a cape.
As people keep pointing out, when Notre Dame cathedral in Paris burned down in April 2019 somewhere between $835 million and $1 billion was raised by people around the world in an incredibly short period of time. People are frustrated that donations for Australia – where an area the size of Belgium has just been evacuated, 23 people have died, over 1,500 homes have been lost, and nearly half a billion animals are estimated to have perished – have not reached these heights.
One woman, Kaylen Ward, who goes by the name The Naked Philanthropist online, decided to give people a little extra motivation to save the lives of animals, humans, and forests. She is now fighting the fire with nudes.
Ward tweeted and posted on Instagram that she would send nudes to everybody who donated at least $10 to fundraisers. All that she asked is that people send proof of the donation in order to receive a nude.
She was expecting to raise around $1,000, but soon her tweets went viral and before long she was receiving more proof of donations than she could possibly deal with alone. She reportedly hit $100,000 in one day.
"For everyone saying that I pocketed some of the money, there's absolutely no way I could've done that, nor would I," she made it very clear on Twitter. "Every person who has donated has sent it directly to the organization or charity of their choice and sent me a confirmation that they did so."
She's since had to hire four people to help with the massive admin involved in dispensing nudes to people who've made charitable donations, she told Buzzfeed News. The team are working hard to verify donations before sending them the nude they'd been promised.
It's a mammoth task, with donations still coming in. People love koalas and countries not being consumed by fires, but what people really love is nudes. These are the rules of the Internet.
Ward told Buzzfeed that the issue was close to home, after she had to flee the Carr fire in California last year. She lived on a houseboat for several days, not knowing whether her house would make it. It did, but many of her neighbors were not so lucky.
"I got to see firsthand how many people were affected," she said.
Ward and her team now estimate that around US$500,000 (AUS$720,000) has been raised as of Sunday, January 5, all in the name of helping Australians save the people and animals affected by the devastation – and being DM'd a picture of a naked woman.
Though Instagram deactivated her account for violating their guidelines, most people have been supportive of her stellar work in motivating people to donate.
As she puts it: "My Instagram got deactivated, my family disowned me, and the guy I like won't talk to me because of that tweet. But fuck it, save the koalas."
As this is only the start of Australia's summer season, and below-average rainfall and drought are exacerbating the situation, the fires could continue to burn for the next few months.
If you would like to donate, a list of places you can donate to and what they do can be found below.