Commercial Boolaroo operator Dee Pestana, Mia Higgins, and Trudie Sherborne
It all began at the Lemon Grove Hotel, Wallsend when Mia Higgins, her sister, and a friend from school created and sold 200 painted pet rocks and bookmarks as part of an Australia For Cambodia fundraiser held in January 2017.
Together the girls raised more than $700 for people living in the small Cambodian village of Romdoul, and while most 10 year-olds might be happy with their efforts, Mia quickly decided she needed to do more.
Now, as the youngster continues her fundraising efforts by collecting and cashing in empty cans, she and Commercial Hotel Boolaroo operator Dee Pestana are together challenging other hotels to assist by donating empty cans to help raise money for the remote village.
"Mia is very inspirational and this is a charity you can feel connected to because she is so informed about it and knows exactly where and what the money is going to," Dee said.
"We have been donating our cans to her for a while now, so I am challenging other hotels in the area to get on board and see what we can do together to help Mia make a difference."
Mia said the original money raised at The Lemon Grove Hotel was used to buy a water pump and filter for the village, as well as a toilet.
"But I was thinking about how much stuff we have here, and how much stuff they don't have, and we raised a lot of money, but I just thought it wasn't enough," she said.
"So I wanted to do more."
Inspired by her school teacher's own efforts to fundraise for the village, Mia soon joined forces with her grandmother Trudie Sherborne and started collecting cans from her grandfather's work and local supermarkets.
"I was inspired by my teacher and seeing the photos of the village made me feel sad and bit angry that they (children in the village) weren't getting an equal amount to us. I had all those emotions you feel when something is unfair," she said.
Together with her grandmother, Mia regularly visits everyone willing to donate their empty cans, including The Commercial Hotel at Boolaroo, and collects as many as she can.
"I think it would be good if other hotels donated their cans," she said.
"We're doing well, but not as well as I would like. I want to raise as much money as we can.
"My goal is to raise $1,000 this year and so far I am up to $400.
"Even just $50 will provide a uniform, a hot meal every day, and a pair of shoes for one of the children."
Since 2013, Australia for Cambodia has provided the village of Romdoul with a three-room brick school building, toilets, mosquito nets, bio-sand water filters, sporting equipment and stationary, school uniforms, and a village ox.
To pledge your cans to Mia, please contact AHA Newcastle Hotels Representative Nikki Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0435 791 363.