Jeff McCloy’s latest investment is in the people of Vanuatu and the Salvation Army.

After Cyclone Pam devastated the island nation in March, the former Lord Mayor of Newcastle was one of the first to reach into his pocket, donating $1million to the Salvation Army’s appeal and travelling to Vanuatu with the charity to survey the damage first-hand.

Since then, his sizeable sum has directly helped more than 2000 people with immediate aid and other long-term support, a report by the Salvation Army said.

The projects he funded include delivering 15 tonnes of food to 351 houses (including rice, sugar, fresh water and water purification tablets); funding a 5.6-kilometre pipeline to deliver fresh water to 950 people; helping to pay the school fees of students who relied on tourist visits for income; giving seeds to 500 families whose gardens were destroyed; and replacing a fishing village’s boats and infrastructure.

Major Gavin Watts, the organisation’s Newcastle divisional commander, said when Mr McCloy and the Salvation Army arrived in the country soon after the cyclone hit, they saw widespread devastation.

Some of the only buildings standing were local schools: the work of Newcastle-based Christian charity Liberty for the Nations, who they quickly partnered with.

As part of the initial tour, three villages were found that weren’t being helped by other aid organisations. Each was severely damaged.

‘‘More or less, that’s where the eye of the storm came through,’’ Major Watts said.

Charity workers and Liberty for the Nations recently completed the first of 200 homes, a 3.6 x 5 metre shelter including a water harvesting unit. Its owner, local man David, told volunteers his wife and three children were in a state of despair when their home blew away.

‘‘We did not know what we were going to do and we lost hope. Now we have hope,’’ he said.

The operation in Vanuatu is ongoing.

Though media attention all but dried up after the disaster, the charities are still working and will stay until the job is done, Major Watts said.

‘‘We just want to acknowledge and thank Jeff and his family, and the Hunter for their continued support and belief in the work of the Salvation Army in Vanuatu,’’ he said.

Source: Newcastle Herald, 23 August 2015