Recovering from Winston
On Friday my friend Lisa and I went up into a few of the villages that were more badly hit by TC Winston. I had heard that many of these villages didn't have access to clean water and all of their crops had been devastated with the storm. Many villages lost all of their dry goods as well as their shelter. I knew aid was on the way....but it wasn't happening quickly enough. The aid organizations had to assess before they could freely give. (Now, aid is getting into most of the villages thank goodness, but some still haven't seen anything). I didn't feel like I could just continue my normal Suva life with my generator and lunches out and exercise and not do anything. I had to feel busy doing something to help if for nothing else than my own sanity... I just felt like I had to do something. I am aware how completely fortunate and spoiled I am to be sitting in my sturdy house with a generator post Winston.
My friend Lisa went to some of the villages last Wednesday and planned on going again. She went with her good friend who had a major connection to the villages and the schools in the areas hit here on Vitu Levu. I invited myself to come along with her on Friday if she needed someone. She said she did....so it was set. Lisa, her lovely housekeeper, Louisa, and myself headed towards Buca Levu and Manu village, among others. We asked around if anyone wanted to donate supplies and received all of this!
I myself filled two grocery carts of supplies to bring along. It felt good to know my money was actually going towards necessities. (I also know when I donate to Red Cross or Unicef it directly helps families as well). After morning assembly (where Zoë got an award for cooperation!) we hit the road. For the first hour the roads, landscape, houses didn't seem terrible....we saw trees down, and some roofs blown (terrible for those families of course). The further north(?) we got the more you could see the devastation. The green vegetation was completely gone. All you could see were brown trees with no branches and no leaves. Roofs were missing and houses were flattened. I've never driven through a cyclone struck area before, but it looked to me like what I would imagine a tornado struck area to look like. It was so sad.
We first stopped close to the village of Manu. This village is next to a river. They used to have a boat but the boat was destroyed in the storm so now they have to swim across the huge river to gain access to the road. At this point, no one had brought them any food and all of their crops and dry goods had been destroyed in the storm. We gave them what we could, but knew they could only carry a limited amount across the river to the 20 families in the village. They were so appreciative. I was a bit worried that we hadn't rationed out food and supplies, but everyone we met was just SO grateful for anything and never asked for more than what they thought they needed. They filled us in on other villages that needed help too and if the very few that had enough rice, etc. they told us to save that for the next village. Everyone wanted us to sit with them and share food, but we really couldn't as we had to pick up our own kids after school. I just cannot believe how gracious everyone was...sharing what little they have. It's the true Fijian spirit. Also, everyone was busily working on re-building everywhere. I know this storm is devastating and SO SO SO sad...but people are still smiling. They are relying on each other and sharing everything. This Fijian spirit is so beautiful. They don't have much...but they have each other.
|Here is Lisa with the guys before they swam back across the river with the supplies
|This is the river they swam across.
|This is the bin they put the supplies in to swim across.
|They put the bin in this tube.
|Their village is there in the hills.
|One of our friends advised us to bring oranges since they last a long time and are full of vitamin C. The kids loved them!
|Behind this clothes line you can see the house has been flattened.
|Another flattened house behind the bushes
|Notice all of the roofs missing
|This particular village lost 120 homes just like this one. They requested tarps for temporary housing.
|After we delivered to the villages, we stopped along the road giving away the rest of what we had. This family was very appreciative.
|I felt funny taking pictures, but really wanted all of you readers to see the devastation just in case you feel moved to donate.
Fiji has a long way to go. This recovery effort is going to be drawn out and hard. Please consider donating to this beautiful country and it's wonderful people. There are so many ways you can help. You can choose from many organizations like The Australian Red Cross, Unicef, or my friend Brooke's efforts to rebuild her village or Karen's efforts to rebuild her partner's village.
PS. I have to give a MAJOR shout out to Allegra for organizing the most fun benefit concert on Friday night at the Holiday Inn. While some part of me felt weird for partying and listening to amazing music after visiting the villages,...it all went to an incredible cause. Allegra organized this whole benefit and it made $11,000! It's so incredible to see everyone coming together to help in different ways.