Wendy McArthur, a secondary school teacher in the United Kingdom, has been visiting Rarotonga since August 2015.
Her first visit was part of her honeymoon and she fell in love with the island, the people, food, culture and the dogs.
With sewing being her hobby, she bought some fabric and took it home to make some shopping bags. She wanted to make her next visit to the island as environmentally friendly and plastic free as possible.
“I got my fabric from Vonnia’s Store, just sarong fabric and I made lots of shopping bags to bring back with me on my next visit,” says McArthur.
The following year the McArthurs returned. They extended their summer as long as they could and spent between four to five weeks at Jenny’s Beach House.
While on the island, she continued her passion for sewing by making sarongs and shopping bags. She shared them with her neighbours and before leaving Rarotonga she donated some to the SPCA shop.
“I like to bring home bright bold cotton fabric, and this year I have made myself a pair of beach dungarees and a throw over bikini dress. However, I do not get to use this, this year due to Covid-19,” she says.
When Covid-19 struck, it put a lot of pressure on health service providers around the world.
In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service not only struggled with personal protective equipment, but they were also desperate for scrubs, wash bags and scrub hats.
McArthur stepped up and volunteered to sew, as schools were closed.
“I joined a group called ‘For the Love of Scrubs’ and was asked to sew hospital scrubs. By the end of seven weeks I had sewn 62 full sets of scrubs.”
McArthur had some leftover fabrics from Rarotonga and thought of using it to make some colourful scrubs.
But the Queen’s Hospital where her sewn scrubs were used, required only the standard scrubs made out of royal blue cotton fabric.
There was call made to the volunteers after the hospital ran short of scrub hats.
The pile of fabric from Rarotonga came in handy, says McArthur.
“I thought how wonderful would it be to share some Cook Islands life to the hospital so I got a simple pattern and started to make them,” she says.
“I have made in total around 80 scrubs hats and donated them to my local hospital.”
She received a photo from the hospital, of a nurse donning one of her creations with a note thanking her for brightening up their day.
McArthur also made some uniform wash bags from Cook Islands fabric, so at the end of a shift, nurses and doctors uniforms could go into the bag and straight into the washing machine.
“One nurse sent me an email to say how it had changed her day, she no longer had to go home and strip off at the door and disinfect herself,” she says.
“She could change at work and put her washing straight into the machine.”
In addition she also made and donated around 150 face coverings too including some for a local school.
McArthur has a busy life, she has 10 grandchildren as well as working and studying.
She looks forward to returning to Rarotonga once Covid ends to relax and feel the warmth of the peaceful island life.
“I am so sad that Covid has had such a negative effect on tourism not only in the UK, but world-wide,” she says.
“Tourism is going to be the hardest hit and take the longest to recover.”
McArthur says she is happy that Rarotonga has remained safe from Covid.
“Its people are too precious. I feel so much for the islanders, we have been supported financially here and I can only begin to imagine the impact this lack of tourism will have on the island,” she says.
“I miss our relaxing time - I will miss sitting under the Milky Way with my husband listening to the waves lapping the beach.
“I would say to the islanders, take this time to heal and recover as a community and island, visitors will be back as soon as we can. Do what you do best, enjoy family time it is so very, very precious and enjoy having your island to yourself.”