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Frontier - Distributing aid after eye of a storm - Fiji

After the eye of cyclone Winston – with the strongest wind speeds on record in the Southern Hemisphere – hit Northern Fiji on Saturday the 20th of February 2016, eleven pairs of frontier volunteers’ hands were ready to give help to those worst affected. Along came Vodafone’s “Red Alert” scheme.

On the Wednesday at around 3pm, we headed to a warehouse near Laucala beach, where 1000 cardboard boxes were ready to be packed full of basic provisions (water, rice, onions, potatoes, noodles, candles, etc.) to be distributed to the families worst hit by Winston.  Hundreds of people turned up, also eager to lend a hand in the relief effort. Tasks ranged from sorting onions into plastic bags to hunting down tins of mackerel to be packed away. Finally, we had to store the boxes in the warehouse – imagine repeatedly lifting a 50kg weight over a 100m distance in 30 degree heat and you should have a good idea of how hot we were! The next day, however, we arrive back at the warehouse to the news that we would have to repack almost half of the boxes after it was flooded In the middle of the night. Five hours (and probably thousands of onions later), we headed home for the well-earned show and to catch some z’s ready to distribute them the next day.

The next day we met at Vodafone HQ at 4am where two buses transported us volunteers as well as Vodafone staff members to Ra, Rakiraki and Tavua in the north of the island. Travelling away from Suva into rural Fiji while the sun was rising allowed us to appreciate the beautiful landscape but also to be made aware of the magnitude of the disaster first hand. The further we went the worse it got. Roofless houses became villages that were almost unrecognisable. However, every person we passed greeted us with a cheery ‘Bula!’ proving the saying is true: Fiji truly is stronger than Winston.

After a 6 hour bus journey, we arrive in Ra at around midday, loaded up a truck with boxes and rode in the back of it to a school which had been turned into one of the 934 evacuation centres in Fiji/Suva/Viti Levu. We then headed to a rural village in Rakiraki where evidence of the disaster could not be avoided. One village, in which there were 19 houses occupied by 25 families, had become something of a dystopia, even more so when we discovered one the houses had burnt down. Nevertheless, they were elated to have received the items – the boxes were more than just food and water, they offered hope to Fiji’s people in their darkest hour. After handing out all of our care packages, it was time to make the long bus journey back to Suva. The 20 hour day had made us all much more aware of how lucky we were to be able to return to our beds.


Thank you to Vodafone Fiji for allowing us the opportunity to offer help where it was most needed.

By Ellie McGarahan - Teaching Volunteer