It looked like Dawn Robertson and her husband Peter were leaving home when they walked into the Northern Advocate office lugging suitcases and carrying boxes.

But, instead, the bags and boxes were filled with clothing and footwear they had collected and donated to an appeal to help residents of Vanuatu. It's been one month since Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu and the island's residents are still trying to clean up the devastation.

The event motivated Whangarei woman Gina Sammons and her family to launch an appeal for people to bring in bedding, clothing, and garden and building materials to the Northern Advocate to fill a container to be shipped to Vanuatu. On Tuesday the Ngunguru couple added their donations to the container.

Mrs Robertson has a close connection to Vanuatu and frequently holidays there. "I've been going for five years and staying a fortnight each time. I do aid work and health talks and upskilling. I go to a little wee island and you go on two little planes to get there and 3km of jungle, and you go into a little outboard boat and you have a man sit on the bow to watch for coral reefs."


Mrs Robertson said she was keen to help out with cyclone relief efforts and collected piles of clothing.

"I was at my daughter's at the time and her and her flatmates donated a whole bunch of clothes. They had two depots in Auckland collecting clothes and they had to say 'no, stop' because they were full - I was about to take the rest to the Red Cross and then a friend told me about the ad, and so we thought we'd bring them in here."

Mrs Roberts said she first went to Vanuatu after being invited to accompany a friend who went there to teach soapmaking. She kept going back because she built a strong connection with people she met.

Ms Sammons said the first container had arrived and her sister was waiting for a call to see how it all went. "The first container was paid for by my sister and her husband but we're looking for donations to fund the second one," she said.

- If you would like to help, contact Gina Sammons on 021 294 1861, email or contact Sonja Guy on 09 434 7766