Charity helps poverty-stricken Tanna people

When Jenelle Joseph first visited the tiny Pacific island of Tanna she was shocked by the level of poverty she witnessed.

The Cobbitty resident’s friend established a medical clinic on the island, which is part of Vanuatu, and Ms Joseph wanted to do something to help too.

So she launched Tanna Projects, a charity which helps the Tanna people overcome the challenges they face on a daily basis.

Now, a 10-tonne shipping container filled to the brim with donated clothes and goods is en route to the island.

“I just want to say a big thanks to everyone in Macarthur who donated and helped us out,” Ms Joseph said.

The container is filled with donated clothes from schools in Canberra and Blacktown.

Ms Joseph said the last time Tanna Projects brought a clothing donation to the island more than 1500 locals walked for miles to receive clothes.

“To see the thankfulness on their faces and the way their eyes light up is the reason we do this,” she said.

“I remember one girl came up in a little sundress, a muumuu they call it, with nothing on her feet.

“It was the end of the day so we’d given away most of the clothes already.

“All I had left to give her was a tiny singlet, but she was so grateful.”

Tanna Projects has many more initiatives in place to help the locals.

In addition to the clothing donations, the charity has helped establish a community garden and a program which delivers food supplies to the elderly and widowed.

They have also distributed solar lights to help students at school and assisted in the construction of a shelter to aid market stall holders.

Another project involved the upgrade of a vital access road.

Ms Joseph said it was hard for people in Australia to understand that people so close to our shores could be living in such trying conditions.

“We have a very different view of what poverty is here,” she said.

“Mother Nature is not working with these people. They don’t have much power or running water. They struggle to keep warm because of the erratic volcanic weather system. There’s acid rain and the volcanic ash prevents crops from growing.”

Ms Joseph said the Tanna locals were beautiful people who lived very simple, rural lives.

She and her daughter Caitlyn will travel to the island for several weeks in June.

Tanna Projects is made up of a group of five members and is assisted by various volunteers. All monetary donations to the charity above $2 are tax deductible.