STAWELL - When it comes to helping those in need, Stawell's Debbie Evans is not one to take a backward step.
Having completed a health care mission with the Australian Christian Fellowship in Vanuatu last year, some of the things Debbie witnessed were very sobering to say the least.
That is why Debbie has now embarked on a project to provide clothing to remote islanders of Vanuatu, many who are still wearing native clothing such as grass skirts.
While in Vanuatu on the health care mission, Debbie met a local NiVan who volunteers his time to collect and distribute any donated goods. The NiVan coordinates the project which is a partnership between the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu and the Australian Christian Fellowship.
"We were social networking after the camp and then made further contact, where we recognised that there were so many remote islanders in need of clothing," Debbie said.
"Many of these islanders don't have proper clothing and need it for health and survival.
"The NiVan had completed a project of a similar nature before with one of his contacts in Brisbane and after speaking with him, I made a commitment to continue with the project."
The commitment will involve accepting enough donations of unwanted clothing from within the community, to fill a shipping container.
At present, Debbie and her team of volunteers have been busy sorting through clothes that have already been donated, in a section of the building in Gilchrist Road owned by David O Jones Mitre 10.
Debbie said Mitre 10 and several other businesses and individuals had been very supportive of the project.
"We are now relying on the generosity of the public to make clothing available for this worthy project," Debbie said.
"Donations from individuals, surplus items of clothing from Opportunity Shops, footwear including thongs, slippers and shoes, bedding and blankets will all be gratefully accepted. All we ask is that the items are clean."
To assist volunteers in sorting through the clothes, residents are encouraged to categorise their items in separate bags. Clothing can be separated in the following age groups - 0-5 years, 5-10 years, 10-20 years, 20-30 years and 30 plus years.
"We anticipate it will take 25 or 30 wool bales full of clothing to fill a small shipping container and that means a lot of sorting. Any assistance we can get from the public in having items separated into their various age groups, would be greatly appreciated," Debbie said.
"We are appealing to families to dig deep, find those unwanted clothes and bedding items and make a donation directly to us. If we have 200 or so families on board giving bedding and clothing, then I believe we can achieve our goal of filling a shipping container. As soon as the container is filled, it will be shipped to the remote islands of Vanuatu."
Debbie said with many islanders still sleeping on grass mats in clothing made themselves, the project will make a huge difference.
"While in the health care camp, I did see some mind boggling illnesses," she said.
"Some of the islanders who get sick survive and others aren't as lucky. With proper clothing for warmth, we believe we can make a big difference.
"The important thing for people to realise too, is that this isn't something we are forcing onto the islanders. Projects such as this are being done at the request of the islanders."
Any families in and around Stawell who are aware they have surplus clothing and bedding can phone or SMS Debbie on 0427 121 397 to arrange a time for the items to be dropped at the Mitre 10 shed in Gilchrist Road, or to arrange collection.