Report by NewsroomPlus.com
It’s been two months since Cyclone Winston claimed the lives of 44 people whilst destroying homes and livelihoods. With an estimated damage bill exceeding $470 million, Cyclone Winston was the strongest tropical cyclone recorded in history to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific Basin.
Even after Cyclone Winston, Fiji’s progress in re-building was hindered by further flash flooding and heavy rainfalls due to low depressions and the passing of Tropical Cyclone Zena.
Sublime Group New Zealand together with its staff and clients adopted a school that was severely affected by Cyclone Winston. A cyclone relief team lead by Group Accountant – Pacifica General Manager Bir Singh; visited Nabau District School and Tobu village to deliver stationary, basic food items and clothing.
Group Accountant – Pacifica General Manager Bir Singh (center) and staff member, Vara (left) distribute food at Tobe village
Located in the province of Ra, Nabau District School educates 165 students from year 1 – 8 . A school that educates children from nearby villages that are prone to land slides and flooding, Nabau District School also served as an evacuation centre during Cyclone Winston that resulted in its roof being blown away as villagers took shelter from the strong winds.
Looking towards the school one cannot help but stare at the missing roof, the heavy rain and cloudy weather made one feel more empathetic towards the students who is constantly reminded till now of the devastation caused by cyclone Winston.
“We had to send the children home, today” said Mr Rakai, who is the head teacher at Nabau District School. He added that the heavy rain made it harder than before to teach and cancelling classes was also a precaution to keep the students safe.
A closer inspection of the school made one question the schools ability to accommodate the 165 students.
The school had 8 classrooms, an office and a library in the main school. Cyclone Winston destroyed two classrooms, a library and a kindergarten classroom (separate from the school) leaving 6 classrooms to cater for students from year 1-8, that’s an average of 28 students of different grades in one classroom. Since the damaged classrooms and library no longer have a roof, classrooms directly under them were exposed to ceiling leaks that are caused from flooding from the exposed classrooms above.
“Sometimes it seems hard teaching the students since they have nothing to write on” said one of the teachers. An year 7 teacher, Mr Prasad said “its important students have proper stationary so that they are able to revise what they learn in the classroom at home”
“You are the first to help us” said Mr Rika. The head teacher of Nabau District School expressed his gratitude while receiving the donations of 165 stationary packs consisting of exercise books , pens, ruler, rubber Sharpener and coloured pencils. Mr Rika explained the hardships they faced while teaching these students given the little resources they had and ended his gratitude speech with a prayer of thanks towards Sublime Group New Zealand’s staff and clients. “I pray this act of kindness is repaid a thousand times to those who contributed” he mentioned in his devotion.
5 kilometers away from the school was Tobu village. A village that was also devastated by Cyclone Winston.
It wasn’t hard to miss the blue tents pinched outside cyclone affected houses. Life in the village seemed to be at a “stand-still” even though Cyclone Winston left two months ago.
The house that was visited by the Cyclone relief team is in the center of 6 houses, separated from the entire village by a hill. Mrs Merelita Saravi ,the owner of the house that was visited explained how her family provided food and shelter for 6 other families during and after Cyclone Winston.
The house that acted as an evacuation centre for the 6 families measured at 30m², a size that seemed impossible to shelter 28 people that included men, women and children. On the first night; Mrs Saravi explained how everyone slept in her house but as winds died down, the men built a shed outside to sleep in.
Though it seemed that overcrowding may have gotten the best of them, food supply proved to be a bigger problem as the 6 families could only afford two meals a day i.e breakfast and dinner as Cyclone Winston destroyed most farms and food supplies.
As the Cyclone relief team passed on food supplies and clothing, members of the 6 families formed a chain to unload the donations.
Even the children were eager to help.
When all was done, the village men hosted a kava ceremony to thank Sublime Group New Zealand for it’s donations.
The kava ceremony is the highest form of gratitude in itaukei culture. Having noting else to offer but yaqona or Kava, it symbolises formality and respect.
The village headsman thanked Sublime Group New Zealand for its donations and once again held a devotion prayer for the act kindness. After formalities, the villagers spoke of perfect timing as they were running out of food supplies and could not get basic food items like rice, flour and other food items because men in the village were farmers could buy basic food items after selling food crops.