Journey for clean water

By Alexandra Newlove

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Preparation for a trek through the Vietnamese mountains has seen Dargaville's Gillian McKinnon putting in the hard yards on her cross trainer. Photo / John Stone
Preparation for a trek through the Vietnamese mountains has seen Dargaville's Gillian McKinnon putting in the hard yards on her cross trainer. Photo / John Stone

The proceeds from tupperware parties in Dargaville are being transformed into clean water in a remote Vietnamese province, thanks to the efforts of a woman and her foster daughter.

Gillian McKinnon and foster daughter Taylor Pulls set off on their "trip of a lifetime" on Saturday: A trek through the remote and mountainous Cao Bang province. This follows more than eight months of fundraising for a water project in the area.

Taylor, 16, was coming out of a "really really traumatic year", where her family broke apart following the death of her mother, said Ms McKinnon.

"She's never been out of the country so this is huge for her ... I'm hoping this will give her a different perspective, so she goes and sees there are people worse off, and that it will give her some hope and inspiration."

The trip was part of a project run by ChildFund New Zealand and Ms McKinnon had sponsored a child through the organisation for eight years.

The women were part of a group of 12 from around the country who had each raised more than $3500 (in addition to paying their own travel expenses) to buy water filters for 100 Vietnamese families.

Ms McKinnon said raising $7000 in Dargaville, where many families didn't have a lot of disposable income was "really difficult". But the pair got there by staging sausage sizzles at The Warehouse, hosting Tupperware parties, holding an auction and running two garage sales.

They also had to up their fitness levels in preparation for the four-day hike through mountainous terrain, part of the two-week trip which would take them thousands of feet above sea level. This meant lots of walks along Baylys Beach and countless hours on the cross trainer.

Ms McKinnon, a midwife and counsellor, said it took her a long time to get the courage up to apply for the trip. She described herself as a former "adventurer" who worked in Saudi Arabia for three years as a midwife.

"At first I thought 'oh I could never do something like that'. But I chewed over it and dreamt about it ... They were really positive and said if you train well, you can do it."

Each Vietnamese household needed four water filters, which cost $465 each including training maintaining the bio-sand devices, and water monitoring going forward.

- Northern Advocate

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