Welcome to GVI Fiji's Community Development Programme blog. Here you can keep up to date with our projects in Fiji.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nish describes the disaster relief efforts.

Our last few days in Nadi were so great. It was awesome to be with all the volunteers again, pulling together for a great cause. Our days were managed a lot like on base. We woke up for breakfast at 7am and were taken to the Red Cross office in Nadi. There we were assigned team names and Red Cross team leaders. There were 3 tasks that needed to be completed daily: assessing flood damaged houses and deciding on aid requirements, distributing aid packages to assessed houses and assisting in the Red Cross office with data entry.

I was put on the Alpha team and our first 2 days were spent assessing. On the first day we covered 3 settlements just outside of Nadi town. We were all given a disaster assessment form and were told to give every house a water and hygiene pack and depending on additional damage to bedding and clothing to decide whether the houses needed additional items such as blankets and tarpaulins.
We had all been in a good mood and looking forward to beginning our work on the way to the villages but our moods changed when we drove through Nadi's main high street and saw for ourselves the street that we had been frequenting just a month before was now a ghost town. The main shops where we had bought clothes and enjoyed pizzas were now just boarded up shells.

When we arrived at the settlements the first thing to note would be the level of mud everywhere. We were trudging through ankle deep mud and filth to get to these houses. When we got to the houses we were met with stories of how much the families had lost, clothing, bedding, school books cooking equipment. I think part of our role was counselor. I know I probably spent a little too long talking to people, just to make sure they felt that their needs were being heard by somebody.

I was assigned to a family who were living in a tent. When I asked the man of the household to show me the damage done in his house, he simply pointed to a bare area of land in front of the tent where his house once stood. He then pointed to a pile of wood and rubbish off to the side where they had collected the remains of his house. He had a family of 9 to look after and did not ask for anything. He insisted he had cooking equipment and clothing, all he needed was a tarpaulin as their tent was getting a wet during the afternoon rains. My heart wrenched for him, I was humbled.

The most incredible thing was the attitude of the people. They would greet us with open arms and ask if we needed a cup of tea or juice. These are people who's water had been turned back on only the day before, and they still were offering us their water. It was incredible. They were so positive. Many of them would not ask for much, simply some blankets as their mattresses were still sodden. We'd wade through filthy villages who's septic tanks were overflowing, with families trying to get us to come and listen to their stories. It was very sad.

On our last day I was able to help distribute some aid packs. We provided water packs which were 10 liter water containers with water purification tablets, and hygiene packs that had simple things like soap in them. The idea is to try and make sure everyone has access to safe drinking water and cleaning materials to last them until they are able to rebuild their lives.
The work was beyond rewarding. watching these people who have lost everything really put into perspective firstly how lucky I am, and secondly how unnecessary most of the things I have are. I get upset when I lose my phone, I can't imagine what I'd do if I lost my house. Everyone here was simply getting on with the clean up. I hope that I could be as strong in the face of adversity. I doubt it.

It was a great experience to work with the Red Cross and it was a very rewarding way to end my 6 months of volunteering. Being at the front line and helping people directly. We left the rest of the volunteers doing just that on Thursday morning.

As I boarded the plane to Hong Kong I was calm and collected and proud of what I had achieved in Fiji.

Help the GVI to assist with ongoing relief efforts - http://www.gvi.org/disaster-recovery-fiji