Harvey woman on a mission to help others

Jacinta CantatoreHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Jess Cook collects rubbish from the side of the road every day.
Camera IconJess Cook collects rubbish from the side of the road every day. Credit: Jacinta Cantatore/Jacinta Cantatore

Every now and then there are people who reassure us that the world is a wonderful place — Harvey resident Jess Cook is one of them.

For the past 10 years, Ms Cook has been collecting rubbish from along the roadside wherever she has been in WA — from Cowaramup to Kununurra — but paying particular attention to the roads around Harvey.

Passionate about the environment and wildlife, she finished a Certificate 3 in Conservation and Land Management and has not stopped cleaning up since.

“Whenever I go walking I take a bag with me,” Ms Cook said.

“My car is always full of rubbish.”

Proud mum Janice Visser said it’s not just collecting roadside litter, but cooking meals for the elderly, caring for sick or injured wildlife, and helping people she passes on the road.

“She just has the kindest heart,” Mrs Visser said.

“She comes home every day and tells me everything that has happened in her day.”

Mrs Visser took to social media recently to praise her daughter’s efforts by highlighting a fairly standard day for Ms Cook.

The post talked about Ms Cook collecting 13 bags of roadside litter and two bags of recyclables, plus helping change an elderly woman’s tyre.

“The response she got was amazing,” Mrs Visser said.

“I am so overwhelmed by how many people have been in touch with us.”

The post has received about 1300 “likes” and been shared by more than 300 people.

“I never expected this reaction,” Ms Cook said. “Everyone has been so kind.”

Staff at South West Pilot Services were among these, reaching out to give Ms Cook some PPE to make her clean-ups safer.

“They gave her five high-vis tops, five pairs of pants, steel-capped boots, two pairs of gloves and a box of chocolates,” Mrs Visser said.

The increased safety gives Ms Visser a little more peace of mind about her daughter’s clean-up work.

Cleaning up roadsides can be not just dangerous, but disappointing too.

“I have to carry a change of clothes with me in case someone throws food on me,” Ms Cook said.

Mrs Visser’s social media post also outlined how a man threw a half-full cup of soft drink out of his car window at Ms Cook.

This kind of behaviour is a common occurrence.

Ms Cook also has to pay to dispose of the rubbish out of her own pocket, her most recent trip to the tip costing $10.

The costs can add up considering she does this on a daily basis.

Last month Ms Cook spent $270 on a sign which said “caution roadside clean-up” to make herself more visible to motorists.

“I asked the shire if they would hire her to do this for them and they said no,” Mrs Visser said.

“They won’t even supply her with equipment because they said they will be liable for her safety.”

Ms Cook does some cleaning work at a supermarket and volunteers with Riding for the Disabled, but she hasn’t found anyone willing to give her a full-time job.

“Jess has high-functioning autism, so she is on a pension, but she wants to work,” Mrs Visser said.

For now Ms Cook is saving money from recycling cans and bottles to get a quad bike so she can clean up some of the more inaccessible areas in the shire.

And her mum is glad her daughter is keeping her sights small.

“If she had a caravan I would never see her again,” Mrs Visser said.

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