A Lithgow pensioner who has spent more than two years painting and decorating his Mazda Bongo Van with an Australiana theme, has been set back after his Bongo was vandalised.
Hugh Flaherty, 69, went into the back garden of his home last week to see the windscreen and the driver's seat window smashed with a hammer and garden statues destroyed.
"I don't understand why someone would want to be so vicious. I've only ever tried to help people." Mr. Flaherty said.
"I felt sick when I looked at the van, I am saving for a new engine and now I will have to replace those windows too. For someone to wilfully damage my property in an unwarranted attack is beyond me.
"I have been working on the Bongo Van for so long. In lockdown it was something that saved my sanity. I had lymphoma some years ago, illness makes you think, and I want to do something meaningful with my life."
Mr Flaherty was doing up his van so he could drive around NSW and hopefully cross borders to raise money for the RSPCA's homeless domestic animals as well as Australian native animals.
Mr Flaherty grew up in a boys home and wasn't allowed pets, despite always loving animals. His family has always loved animals, with his sister working in animal welfare and his mother owning a stud farm in Lismore when he was younger.
"My mother had this amazing ability with animals and she even opened Grafton Bridge on her prized horse," he said.
These influential years in Mr Flaherty's life led to him spending the rest of it raising money for animal welfare and the RSPCA.
"I was an art teacher for 40 years and have had the kids raising money for all sorts of things to do with animals, so I am very involved in it," he said.
"My greatest fund was every year doing the MC at the Million Paws Walk in Katoomba, and I did that for about 15 years and it's great.
"There are so many animals, and one of the winners was a ferret that beat all the good looking dogs."
Mr Flaherty said that he got thinking and after having art galleries and teaching art, he wanted to paint his van.
"I had a van and it was boring white and I thought 'What will I do with it?' and so I love art and Australian animals and wildlife so I painted it and it took about eight months and my hope was to travel around Australia and raise money for the animals and animal protection groups," he said.
"Now COVID stopped that but the other good side is that I have been able to work on it till it is nearly finished."
Unfortunately for Mr Flaherty, that was when his van was vandalised.
It made me a bit sick in the stomach, but look everything is fixable.Hugh Flaherty
"I think it is the old green eyed monster and you bump into it in all walks of life and it's called jealousy, someone's got troubles and they see someone enjoying doing something and they think 'I'll take that from them'."
Mr Flaherty said he was lucky hardly any of the paint work was damaged.
"Which was lucky, because I thought that person might have gone for the paint work and the windows last," he said.
"It is kind of my pet hobby when I'm bored or frustrated so I go and sit in the bongo when it rains or I work on it in good weather.
"It has given me a lot of pleasure and when COVID stops I'll still head out with that."
Mr Flaherty said he used to be an artist resident at Broken Hill so he would like to go back out there.
"It is a pretty amazing place, and a lot of towns on the way would be good to raise money for the animals and get me out of the house and get a bit of culture on other side of Blue Mountains," he said.
"I've really enjoyed doing it and hopefully it will be a good calling card and people might want to know about it."
Mr Flaherty said the engine of the Bongo van needs a bit of work and has been trying to contact MAZDA to see if he can get some help. He is now looking around for options to help fix the glass in the van.
"After all that is done, hopefully I can stick to my plan and get back out on the road and raise money for the animals," he said.
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