Keyboard warrior answers crucial need
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.
FOUNDER: Jo Sweeney.