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Heidi Dening rushes to give aid in Vanuatu

New Zealand’s Cammeray-based not-for-profit, Jump Start Foundation, is appealing for donations to fund a relief effort on the island of Tanna in Southern Vanuatu, which has been devastated by Category 5 Cyclone Pam.

North Shore fitness industry identity and founder of Jump Start Foundation, Heidi Dening, is flying to Tanna to personally deliver support to local communities ravaged by the cyclone, which international aid agencies have confirmed to be among the worst hit of Vanuatu’s 83 islands.

Throughout Vanuatu it is estimated that there are 132,000 people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance, along with the 32,000 residents of the Southern islands in dire need of food and clean water. UNICEF estimates that 54,000 children have been affected by the cyclone nation-wide.

Ms Dening, the Founder and Director of Jump Start Foundation, said: “The last contact we had with our community on Tanna was on Thursday evening, before the onset of the cyclone. The headmaster of Isangel Central Primary School, Mr Jackson Ruben, emailed me to say that they were battening down the shutters on the library, while the children had returned to their families to seek safety.

“We can only hope the children and their families have survived this frightening ordeal. What we do know is that 100% of the food supply on Tanna has been destroyed and all housing flattened.

“I am flying to Vanuatu on Monday, where I will be establishing a clearer idea of the immediate needs of the community, so that we can best support our people in their rebuilding effort.

“The one thing I know about the ni-Vanuatu (Vanuatu’s ethnic Melanesian population) is that they are hard-working, positive, resourceful, and have an immensely strong community spirit.

“I am confident that with targeted outside assistance, my long history with Tanna, and the respect that both of our communities have for each other, we will band together and rebuild successfully,” she said.

In July 2014, Jump Start Foundation opened a community library at Isangel Central Primary School (ICPS), located on the West Coast of Tanna.

The ICPS community library was fully funded by Jump Start Foundation and built by more than 700 volunteer hours of work performed by more than 200 supporters, following a 30-month planning period.

The extent of damage to the library has yet to be fully assessed but it's likely that it has been destroyed.

100% of the funds raised will be directed towards providing support to the people and communities on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu. These funds will be distributed directly to the people on the ground as needed.

Importantly, Jump Start Foundation does not deduct any administration fees from donations.

This article originally appeared in Vanuatu Daily Post - Jump Start Foundation rushes to give aid in Vanuatu.

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