I write this article on behalf of Caroline Mason, a New Zealand Quilter.
Sewing for charity
About 7 weeks ago, the country of Vanuatu (which comprises some 60+ islands in the South Pacific Ocean) was devastated by Cyclone “Pam”. Thousands of people were left without homes or shelter of any form.
A few days later, Caroline Mason, a New Zealand Quilter, made the decision to commence a nationwide Quilt collection for delivery to the people of Vanuatu. On the first day of the project she spoke to Robyn Curd to ask if the Tauranga BERNINA shop could be a drop off point for Quilts from throughout the Bay of Plenty area. Robyn responded with instant enthusiasm and saw no problem with them participating.
At the suggestions of Robyn, Caroline then phoned the BERNINA New Zealand Head Office and asked them to email all NZ BERNINA centres seeking drop offs in other parts of the country. As a result, over the next week, 20 drop off points were established around the country.
It is now six weeks after that point and Caroline has just returned from a trip to deliver the 741 quilts to Vanuatu.
The number of quilts from each area varies between 5 and 52, except for the Tauranga shop which has collected 173 quilts which is a big success. Over the four weeks of the project Caroline Mason has made a number of trips to collect more and more quilts from the shop, and the boxes of donations just keep coming in.
In the end they will have produced nearly 1/4 of all the quilts gathered from the 20 depots.
The quilts were brought by ships to Vanuatu.
On the second sea day Caroline arranged to set up a display in the atrium where passengers could come by, see the quilts and she could tell them a little about quilting and thE project. Then Vanuatuan staff members came by and told her of their children, their parents and other family members having homes destroyed. She invited each of them to choose a quilt to send to their families. It was a very moving 2 hours as crew contacted their Vanuatuan friends around the ship and they arrived in the atrium one after another.
The next event was on the wharf in Vila. All the Aid was unloaded onto the wharf and Caroline was introduced to the Government Member Mr. Jotham Napat responsible for the cyclone recovery. He asked her to convey thanks to you on behalf of the Government of Vanuatu.
Mr Napat said most of the Quilts would be sent to the southern colder islands where the devastation is greatest. Caroline Mason was then asked to give a quilt to each of the men performing on the wharf in traditional costume. With the formalities over, she headed off to the home of Rachel a crew member who had
invited her to visit her village.
As they drove there Caroline noticed piles of tree trunks and branches which had been cut and dragged off the road, many sheets of roofing iron were being held on the roofs with sand bags. They crossed a bridge that had been damaged and reduced to a single lane. As They entered the village Caroline saw 2 large UNICEF tents, initially these had been emergency housing, now they are used as a school. Arriving at the Village of Mele, around a dozen women were awaiting their arrival. Lunch had been prepared, cooked in a style similar to a hangi. There was chicken, taro, rice and a coconut soup.
This village had been flooded and everything washed away or destroyed by mud. One woman showed her 2 manual sewing machines now destroyed by mud. She told her she had previously sewn clothing for other locals but could no longer earn money this way. Then Caroline gave each of the women and many of the children a quilt, and some of the little dresses.
People were very appreciative. One woman made a speech on behalf of the group, the woman all stood to sing a hymn and say a prayer then every woman came forward and kissed Caroline and said thank you. In her brief speech Caroline said the Quilts are not only to keep the bodies warm but to warm the soul.