In 2002 as part of the completion of Elizabeth Jewson’s university studies an opportunity presented itself to do a two-week clinical placement in the physio department at Vila Central Hospital, Port Vila. Elizabeth’s daughter Melanie, who was about to start her final year of high school, decided to accompany her on the placement to volunteer in the records department of the hospital. The deprivation and lack of even basic resources, but also the generosity, warmth and optimism of the people they met and worked with had such a profound effect on both Elizabeth and Melanie, that it was the beginning of a deep and lasting connection to Vanuatu and its people. Melanie instigated fundraising efforts in the years before her death, this and the funds donated at her funeral began the path to forming the Melanie Jewson Foundation.
I’ve been to Vanuatu on holiday and it looked so beautiful, is there really a need?
Despite being a tropical paradise, Vanuatu is amongst the least developed countries in the world, something that is often not a part of the tourist experience. As a country that has only recently gained its independence, much of its infrastructure and governance is still developing, somewhat in discord with the thriving tourism industry. Additionally, the strain placed on the country by frequent natural disasters means that the government is largely dependent on foreign aid for the delivery of key services. Unfortunately, there are still many gaps in what can be provided and this is where the Melanie Jewson Foundation finds its work.
Why do you only operate in Port Vila?
Almost 20% of Ni-Vanuatu live in Port Vila and over the last ten years its population has more than doubled. It is home to over 44,000 people, many of whom have come to the city from outer islands looking for work. The need is great. Vila is where we have contacts and so it made sense to begin our work there. We hope that in time our foundation will grow to the point where we will be able to offer assistance to other, more remote parts of the country.
Who was Melanie?
Melanie was the middle child of Gary and Elizabeth Jewson. She was passionate about the performing arts; a talented dancer and singer. She was looking forward to what promised to be a bright future when she tragically lost her life in a car accident two months before her nineteenth birthday. Melanie had travelled to Port Vila with her mum for volunteer work briefly in 2003 and was very moved by what she experienced there. Upon returning to Australia, she organised fundraising drives for the Vila Central Hospital and sewed sheets to send over for the hospital beds. Melanie’s family and friends consider this foundation to not only be a testament to her memory, but a continuation of the work she began back in 2003. You can read more about Melanie here.
Why set up a foundation in honour of Melanie?
After the opening of the Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel at the Vila Central Hospital in 2009, Melanie’s family started thinking about a longer lasting legacy. On visits to Port Vila, they were struck by the overwhelming need they witnessed there and wondered how they could help the situation, in any small way. Establishing a foundation seemed a fitting and enduring tribute to a much loved daughter, sister and friend. As well as being a way of keeping Melanie’s memory alive it is also a way to put in place more permanent channels for relief and development that will hopefully outlast us all.
What does the Melanie Jewson Foundation logo represent?
Melanie’s favourite animal was the Superb Fairy Wren. For many years the wrens have been a delightful presence in the Jewson family garden and Melanie loved to watch them playing and foraging. Across the world, birds symbolise liberation, luck, love, joy and positive change. In mythological and religious imagery, the bird is often seen as a bridge between the everyday and the sacred – the Ancient Egyptians believed that catching sight of a bird after someone’s death meant that the creature was escorting the spirit into its new incarnation. Our logo was designed by Tony Wasley, a talented graphic artist and a dear friend of Melanie’s.
Where does the money come from?
From people just like you. Contributors give one-off donations, regular donations or just come out and support our fundraising events. Although we are currently working on securing corporate sponsorship to provide us with a secure annual income, for the time being we are completely dependent on the generosity of regular people who are moved to help us out. We are thankful to all of our donors, especially those who make significant contributions each year. To find our more about how you can become a donor, click here.
Where does the money go?
Our foundation is run entirely by volunteers, so we have very few overheads and hidden costs. We also work closely with professionals across health and education services in Port Vila to determine where there is need and where our funds would be most beneficial. The vast majority of funds raised go directly to Vanuatu-based projects, retaining a modest sum to cover administration and fundraising costs.
How can I donate funds?
Easily! Navigate to our Become A Donor page and follow the steps. We gratefully accept one-off donations as well as regular contributions. You can donate online via PayPal or send a cheque through the post if that’s easier for you. If you would like to discuss a custom donation arrangement – for example a bequest in your will or a corporate sponsorship, there is a form on the page just for you. We will always provide you with a receipt of any payment made.
Are donations tax deductible?
All donations over AUD$2.00 are tax deductible. We will always provide you with a receipt of any payment made.
Why do you have a supporting organisation?
Starting a charity is a complicated business! Because we collect funds for use overseas, acquiring DGR (Deductible Gift Recipient) status is a little more involved than if we were providing a service within Australia. We are required by law to have a supporting organisation auspicing our financials to ensure that we are doing what we say we are doing and everything is above board. As we grow this will become unnecessary and we will have complete independence along with full DGR status.
Who is your supporting organisation?
The Melanie Jewson Foundation is supported by the Belmont Rotary Club in Geelong and has connected with us through Rotary Australia World Community Service Ltd. We are excited about our partnership with the Belmont Rotary Club and look forward to working with them to support the Foundation’s projects in Vanuatu.
What is the connection with The Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel?
The Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel was built at the request of the Vila Central Hospital community by the Jewson family and friends between 2006 and 2009. The chapel was given to the hospital and functions not only as a multi-faith chapel, but as a learning centre and community space. Although the chapel is firmly in the hands of the hospital and its construction predates the Foundation, a small percentage of our funds are kept aside each year to pay for essential maintenance. The Melanie Jewson Foundation as an entity does not have a religious agenda, but is solely dedicated to forging sustainable health and education in Vanuatu.