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Why Vanuatu?

In 2020, Vanuatu became one of just six countries to graduate from a ‘Least Developed Country’ since the classification was created by the United Nations over 65 years ago.

Vanuatu is deservedly proud of the structural, social and economic progress achieved over this time, however Vanuatu remains under constant threat from economic and environmental disasters. Additionally, with over 40% of Vanuatu’s national budget coming from International Aid, continued support from development partners, such as the MJF, are paramount in ensuring Vanuatu’s prosperity.

The MJF, working with its partners, will support the Vanuatuan Government in pursuing its national strategic priorities to deliver quality public services, including health and education, to all citizens.

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I’ve been to Vanuatu on holiday and it was so beautiful. Is there really a need?

The short answer is yes. 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 gained its independence relatively recently, much of its infrastructure and governance is still developing, which is 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 the system and these are where the Melanie Jewson Foundation finds its work.

Why do you mainly operate in Port Vila?

Almost 20% of Ni-Vanuatu people live in the nation’s capital Port Vila and the city has seen a vast increase in population over the last 20 years. It is home to around 45,000 people, many of whom have come to the city from outer islands seeking work. The need is great. Over our almost two decade long connection with the country we have formed strong relationships in Vila in both the health and education sectors.

For these reasons it made sense to begin our work in Port Vila. Thanks to the support of people like you, our foundation has now grown to the point where we are able to reach beyond Vila and offer assistance to other parts of the country.

Who was Melanie and why is the foundation named after her?

Melanie was the middle child of Gary and Elizabeth Jewson of Bannockburn, Victoria, Australia. She was passionate about the performing arts; a talented dancer and singer and had a bright future ahead of her. Tragically, Mel 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 her return to Australia, she organised fundraising drives for the Vila Central Hospital and sewed sheets to send over for the hospital beds, resolving over her lifetime to give “$100,000 to charity” — which seemed a vast sum to Melanie at that time. 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.

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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 conceived and designed for our 2012 launch by Tony Wasley, a talented graphic artist and a dear friend of Melanie’s. In 2019 the logo underwent a subtle refurbishment by Melanie’s cousin Nathan Harms, graphic designer and brand manager.

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. The vast majority of our funds are donated by individuals, but we also have a number of generous Foundation Partners who make regular contributions or provide services either pro bono or at a heavily discounted rate. We are thankful to all of our donors, especially those who make significant contributions each year.

Where does the money go?

We 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. Run entirely by volunteers, the MJF has very few overheads and hidden costs. The vast majority of funds raised go directly to Vanuatu-based projects, retaining a modest sum to cover administration and fundraising costs.

On average, the Melanie Jewson Foundation allocates 84% to program activities. Only 5% is spent on administrative costs including freight and processing fees. The rest (11%) is invested into marketing, publicity and events to help raise future funds.

How can I donate funds?

Easily! Navigate to our Donate page and follow the steps. We gratefully accept one-off donations as well as regular contributions. You can donate online, make a direct deposit or just 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, we would love to hear from you. There is a form on the page just for you.

Are donations tax deductible?

Yes. All donations over AUD$2.00 are tax deductible. We will always provide you with a receipt of any payment made. We usually send receipts in July for the previous financial year.

How does the MJF stay accountable?

The MJF believes firmly in transparency and accountability. We are guided by strong principles which direct our goals, strategies and all of our activities. We are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For Profits Commission (ACNC) and as such, meet their stringent accountability requirements. We also publish an annual report, detailing our recent projects, goals, strategies and financial information. The MJF proudly displays the ACNC’s Registered Charity Tick to promote our commitment to being transparent, accountable and well run.

How do you know what to donate?

The Melanie Jewson Foundation’s donation strategy is needs-driven, partnership-based, respectful and ethical. Every project funded is driven by the identified requirements of the staff of the school or hospital in question, as well as the Vanuatuan Government.

We have developed detailed donation policy documents to guide our decision making. Equipment and resources are always procured as new.

Why not just support a more established charity currently working in Vanuatu?

Being small and entirely volunteer-run puts us at a great advantage. The vast majority of our donated funds (84%) go directly to Vanuatu-based projects, and we are able to be highly responsive to changing circumstance or need, which can be harder to achieve in a big organisation. We value a truly personal approach — allowing us to foster relationships with the wonderful practitioners and leaders working in Vanuatu; to learn from them and with them about what is the best way to support their needs. Long-term (and we are in it for the long term), this inevitably means that we are strengthening the health system rather than just supporting it.

Not only are we committed to these long term goals, we are committed to doing something achievable, doing it well, adjusting our approach and adapting to feedback. In addition, there is a relative paucity of independent NGOs working in Vanuatu and none that do exactly what we do. Project-based NGOs or volunteer teams come and go in Vanuatu all the time. We take great pride in our constancy and stability.

Transparent, flexible and relationship based, the MJF’s locally-led aid actually gets to the people who need it.

What is the foundation’s connection with the Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel?

At the request of the Vila Central Hospital community, The Melanie Jewson Memorial Chapel was built by the Jewson family and their extended family and friends between 2006 and 2009. The chapel was gifted to the hospital and functions not only as a multi-faith chapel, but as a learning centre and community space. Placed firmly in the hands of the hospital, the chapel’s construction predates the establishment of the Foundation and is not connected with the work that we do. The Melanie Jewson Foundation is solely dedicated to forging sustainable health and education in Vanuatu.