The beard had to go, but it went for a good cause.
When ladies in his office said it was time for his beard to go because it had got too long and scraggy, Clutha District Council Transportation network control officer Craig Jessop saw an excellent opportunity to fundraise for his favourite project.
His goal is to raise $30,000 to fund a sustainable timber mill in a remote section of the Papua New Guinean highlands.
“PNG has been a long-term project for me and a good number of my mates,” he said.
Mr Jessop said he travelled to PNG twice a year to undertake maintenance work on machinery at a Christian hospital in Kapuna, on the southwestern side of PNG.
Located on the banks of the crocodile-infested Wame River, Kapuna and the nearby Kikori Hospital on the Kikori River are the only hospitals within paddling distance for 30,000 locals.
Nearby is a relative term, as it can take over five hours in a fast boat to get from Kapuna to Kikori.
To get from Balclutha to Kapuna was a long and tiring journey, Mr Jessop said.
“There are no roads or airstrips nearby. First, you fly to Port Moresby, then, hopefully, you can catch a lift with a Total Oil resupply flight into their jungle base, then catch a boat going down the Wame river.
“They purposely built the hospital in the 1950s out in the middle of nowhere to make it neutral, and now 200 people work there and at the new school beside it,” he said.
His travels there to fix the machinery which keeps the hospital and school running began when his church, St Mark’s, in Balclutha, called for volunteer builders, electricians and mechanically minded people to give up two or three weeks each year to help fix the broken bits and construct new buildings.
Mr Jessop said he went twice a year, stayed for three weeks at a time and was often joined by others.
This year, Mr Jessop would help continue the maintenance work but also planned to build a timber mill there.
He said a local family had already established the timber mill but needed help acquiring better milling machinery.
“There is logging there but it’s run by expats from Asia, so we want to help establish the local industry.
“If we can train locals to process the local timber better, then it will be used in the $6 million AusAid funded rebuild of the hospital complex and everyone will benefit from it,” he said.
The shaving of his beard took place just before Christmas and through his work and a Facebook page he raised $3000.
“One of my daughters said she was glad I was cutting it off.”
Mr Jessop said he was very grateful to those all who contributed.
He expected to travel to PNG about late April depending on the rebuild of the hospital.