An Introduction

About Us

The Melanie Jewson Foundation launched in 2012 and is dedicated to developing partnerships for health and education in Vanuatu. To date, we have raised over AU$65,000 and continue to build our donation base. We support ongoing projects, individual proposals as well as supply funds to third parties to help them realise their goals. Currently focused on the Vila Central Hospital and Vila East Primary School, the Melanie Jewson Foundation strives for growth throughout Vanuatu. We can always do more.

About Our Work

Vanuatu has been classified by the United Nations as a Least Developed Country. Its health and education systems are in desperate need. One in two Ni-Vanuatu children will not attend high school and Vanuatu’s budget for health per person is 37 times less than Australia’s. The MJF responds to this overwhelming need by working with the people of Vanuatu to foster opportunities for improved health and education.

Additionally, the MJF has an ongoing commitment to support the Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel, built at the request of the Vila Central Hospital Community.

Health & Education

As a Least Developed Country, Vanuatu’s unsustainable health system is in crisis. The MJF works in partnership with the Vila Central Hospital to provide equipment, education and training.

Education is crucial in enabling Vanuatu to reach its future development goals. Together with the Ministry of Education and in particular Vila East Primary School, we are working to support Vanuatu’s incredibly under resourced education system.

Melanie's Way

How grief led to hope via the Camino de Santiago

Melanie Kim Jewson lost her life in a car accident on the 30th of August 2004. She was almost 19 years old. Her older brother André, her younger sister Ashlee, her parents Elizabeth and Gary have travelled a painful journey of grief together.

Melanie and Elizabeth Jewson on their way to Vanuatu, 2003

In early 2003, Melanie and her Mum travelled to the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu to work together as volunteers at the Port Vila Central Hospital. Elizabeth wanted to do a student placement in a developing country as part of her post graduate studies, and Melanie was keen to go with her. The experience had a profound impact on both Melanie and her Mum. Mel returned from Vanuatu to complete her final year at high school in Geelong and during that year set about raising funds and equipment for the hospital.

Who was Melanie? Like most of us, she was many things to many people. She loved the arts – she danced and sang – she was encouraging of others, beautiful, overflowing with potential. Two thousand friends and family attended her funeral and $3,500 in donations for the Port Vila Central Hospital was collected. When asked how the money should be spent, the CEO of the hospital suggested that they would love to build a Chapel in memory of Melanie on their grounds, a building that the Port Vila Ni-Vanuatu community had been in need of for many years.

More funds were required to embark on building the chapel, so, around 6 months after Mel’s death, production began for A Gift, a benefit concert that was to be held almost to the day of the first anniversary of Mel’s death. The 250 performers and production crew were all connected to Mel in some way. An audience of 1,300 came together in the beautiful Costa Hall in Geelong to celebrate Mel’s life and to share their grief and love. $35,000 was raised at this event and a further $15,000 in the ensuing years, with humble thanks to many generous and gracious people.

Work then began in earnest to try and figure out how to build the Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel. With the help of Tom Whipp, a builder already working at the hospital, construction soon began. Over the next 4 years a working party of 44 friends and family travelled to Vanuatu to help complete the main structural work as well as a large butterfly mosaic on the floor. A second smaller work party of 15 returned two years later to bring the project to near completion. Many Ni-Vanuatu worked hard on the project throughout the 4 years of construction, along with the intermittent aid of itinerant working parties from other countries and places. The Chapel was finally opened on Easter Sunday, 12 April, 2009. Among those present were 15 of Melanie’s family and friends from Australia. It was opened by the CEO of the hospital, Leipakoa Matariki, and the President of Vanuatu, Mr Kalkot Mateskelekele, among others. The Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel is a beautiful building, used as a sacred place of peace and prayer. During the week it also serves as a multi-purpose learning space.

The Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel, opened and handed over to the Vila Central Hospital in April 2009.

After the opening of the chapel, Melanie’s family started thinking about a longer lasting legacy. It was then that the thought of the Melanie Jewson Foundation was conceived. During that year, Elizabeth and Gary travelled to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an 800km ancient pilgrimage. They felt that doing this walk might somehow help them work out how to live in the wake of the life changing event of Mel’s untimely and sudden death. While they were walking there was a film being made along the Camino called The Way, which tells of a father whose son is killed at the beginning of his pilgrimage along the Camino. The father, played by Martin Sheen, carries the ashes of his son along the whole route to finish the journey that his son started. At the completion of the walk, Mel’s Mum and Dad had the privilege of sharing some of their story with Martin Sheen, and at his initiative, a correspondence and friendship developed between him and the Jewson family.

In April 2012, seven and a half years after Mel’s death, The Melanie Jewson Foundation was launched. This tax deductible foundation provides ongoing support to the chapel, much needed equipment for the Port Vila Hospital, and supports the education of Ni-Vanuatu children in Vanuatu. Martin Sheen graciously agreed to be the honorary Patron of the foundation, and the launch coincided with the premiere gala screening of the film The Way in Geelong, April 2012. The Way is an extraordinary story reflecting, in so many ways, through so many people, the faith, hope and love that Melanie lived – and that, we hope – lives on through this foundation.

Melanie Kim Jewson

23 October 1985 – 30 August 2004