Brisbane/Australia. 20,000 kg of critical aid is well on its way to Vanuatu, having nearly reached Port Vila, to help rebuild a shattered nation torn apart by Cyclone Pam, one of the worst storms ever recorded in the southern hemisphere.Two containers packed to capacity are on their way to remote Tanna Island, south east of Port Vila with its population of 30,000 among the hardest hit by the cyclone. What started out as a grass roots appeal by clients of the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre with direct ties to the Tanna Island community and with the support of Coorparoo State School, quickly gathered momentum with the Centre offering to assist with the appeal and the use of one of its Exhibition Halls.
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre along with its AEG Ogden sister venues, Brisbane Entertainment Centre and Suncorp Stadium coordinated the Help for Vanuatu Appeal with support from their valued suppliers, local organisations and businesses, schools, local soccer clubs and generous private donors. From Murwillumbah to Maleny, donations of medical supplies, tents, tarps, tools, sleeping bags, and essential foods such as cooking oil, flour, rice, powdered milk and dried and canned vegetables arrived by the truckload at the Centre to be packed and loaded into two 20 ft shipping containers.
Amid reports of a devastated community with many still sheltering in caves and desperate for food such as cooking oil and rice the appeal swung into action with the help of many local organisations and businesses including Business South Bank who helped to promote the appeal. A snapshot of donations reflected the generosity of BCEC’s suppliers, partners, friends and strangers delivering single donations of 250kg rice, 250kg of flour, 400 pairs of men’s and ladies’ thongs, ten pallets of bottled water, soccer balls, boots and jerseys.
BCEC staff put in more than 300 hours sorting, packing and loading the containers ready for shipping to Port Vila and then on to Tanna Island. The first 500 kg of supplies went by air to Tanna Island including 100 litres of cooking oil or ‘liquid gold’ as described by the Islanders. Brisbane Convention & Exhibition, together with major supplier Bidvest and through donations were also able to organise an additional 856 kg of essential food items for the Vanuatu appeal.