Wedding dresses collected to help Fijian women

DRIVEN to make a difference, local woman Gwen Petty is collecting wedding dresses to donate to a struggling Fijian business.

The mother has teamed up with Fillies on Parade owner Daphne Pohle and Floral, Bridal and Giftware Emporium to find and ship wedding dresses to women in Fiji who want to open a bridal hire store.

Ms Petty and her husband are travelling to Fiji this week to liaise with the women and build structures for the business's operation.

"We've had an overwhelming response, with more than 30 dresses coming to me after a Facebook callout," she said.

"I don't want to jinx it but these ladies will make it happen."

Ms Petty feels compelled to help out and already has four villages under her wing.

"I grew up in Guinea with my parents and did similar work with the church," she said.

"There are so many solo single mothers there that work for 75 cents an hour and are flat out trying to put curtains on the windows."

Not only does Ms Petty volunteer in nursing, she is also a pen pal and donates school supplies overseas.

In the past month, Ms Petty has cleaned out local op shops of sewing machines and personally fixes them in order to send them to Fiji.

"I try and send one a week, but it's quite costly - $170 a parcel," she said.

"I'm fast running out of money and time."

Ms Petty said the Fijian women humbled her and she was determined to help, even if it was one woman at a time.

"I look up to them," she said.

Donations of sewing machines would be greatly appreciated.

If you would like to help, donate at Fillies on Parade or Floral, Bridal and Giftware Emporium on Goondoon St.