Key­board war­rior an­swers cru­cial need

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS -

SHE wasn’t at ground zero when Cy­clone Deb­bie stormed the Whit­sun­days on Tues­day, March 28.

But that is ex­actly what made it pos­si­ble for the founder of Vol­un­teer Whit­sun­days to launch an or­gan­i­sa­tion which proved to be a life­line for so many peo­ple in des­per­ate need.

Be­fore the cy­clone hit, Jo Sweeney “woke up feel­ing the fear and the pain” of all her friends and clients back in the Whit­sun­days, the place she had called home for 16 years, work­ing as a cre­ative strate­gist.

“Peo­ple were very hon­est on their Face­book feeds say­ing they were hid­ing in their cup­boards and this was eight hours be­fore the cy­clone re­ally hit,” she said.

Ms Sweeney be­gan to dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion be­ing re­ported in the me­dia, to those who couldn’t ac­cess it and in the cy­clone’s im­me­di­ate af­ter­math she was given the job by one of her clients, Fish D’Vine, to spread the word that free food was avail­able for the com­mu­nity.

Then, along­side Whit­sun­day pho­tog­ra­pher An­drew Pat­tin­son, who was also out of town at the time, she be­gan co-or­di­nat­ing ef­forts to sup­ply gen­er­a­tor fuel to a pop-up emer­gency med­i­cal cen­tre while all roads to the Proser­pine Hospi­tal were cut.

“And this was all be­fore the mil­i­tary could even get in,” she said.

Ms Sweeney said she started to hear about “chain­saw he­roes” get­ting stuck in and help­ing peo­ple them­selves. She then con­tacted Whit­sun­day Times ed­i­tor Sharon Smallwood and through her sup­port in­vited Whit­sun­day com­mu­nity cham­pi­ons to be ad­mins of a new Face­book group – and Vol­un­teer Whit­sun­days was born.

“Any­one can make a dif­fer­ence – if you act with that pure giv­ing side it is con­ta­gious,” Ms Sweeney said.

PHOTO: KEA­GAN RYAN

FOUNDER: Jo Sweeney.

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