CHRISTIAN couple Jenny and Michael Geale have made it their mission to feed asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru Island from their home on the Gold Coast.
The married couple, who are members of Newlife Uniting Church, are the brains behind community organisation We Care Nauru, which organises food parcels and other goods by ship or air to Nauru.
“Some of the items are necessities and others are what we call ‘gestures of love’, to show the refugees there are people thinking of them and wanting to lift their spirits,” Mrs Geale said.
Refugees and asylum seekers from the Nauru detention centre, who were allowed to roam freely outside the detention centre since October last year, can pick up the items at the local Catholic church run by Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Father Saimon Kokoria.
As owners of an online business, Mrs Geale said she and her husband had received several requests to send food parcels to Nauru.
Mrs Geale, who is a former student at Loreto College, Coorparoo, said food was a priority for the refugees.
“People primarily buy groceries on Nauru but they are all imported,” she said.
“I’ve seen some reputable information showing that one lettuce can cost $10 to $12.”
After opening a Facebook page for their new community venture, setting up a website and asking for donations through online communities, the pair received an excellent offer to help ship the items.
“We were contacted by someone involved in sea freight to Nauru, who had also worked on Nauru, and wanted to help,” Mrs Geale said.
“Within a week we were given access to a free ship, a good honest ship, and put on a pallet (two cubic metres in size) of foods.”
Their contact also helped solve the pair’s initial problem of where to put the pallets after arriving on Nauru.
“They connected us with the Catholic church there, and the priest (Fr Saimon Kokoria) agreed to use his church to store the goods and then would deal directly with the asylum seekers and refugees,” Mrs Geale said.
“We knew we could trust the Church to help.”
Their first shipment of parcels went through the Nauru port last weekend and the goods were distributed to the refugees on April 18 from the parish.
A further four pallets are now being loaded up with donated items from the Queensland community.
Students and staff from St John Fisher College, Bracken Ridge, are among the hundreds responding to donation requests.
The school was rearranging its library resources and decided to send excess books to refugees on Nauru through Mr and Mrs Geale’s initiative.
Deputy principal Sharee Lane said the college wanted to help and improve the living situations for people on Nauru.
“This is just a very small contribution, but it is for a cause we are truly passionate about,” Ms Lane said.
Mrs Geale said We Care Nauru would continue sending ships to Nauru until off-shore detention centres were closed.
While the organisation cannot send fresh produce to Nauru, the pair receives items through a Facebook-based network.
For a full list of donation items, visit www.wecarenauru.org.
By Emilie Ng