29 February, 2016
“At least I have free air conditioning now.”
Talk about looking on the bright side.
John is a teacher from Navesau on Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. During the wild winds of Cyclone Winston, he lost his house. Not quite all of it, admittedly. Three of the four walls still stand and the floor is present. But the roof blew completely off, strewn across the rest of the village, invisible amongst the other roofs scattered around. One wall of his house lies collapsed on the ground. It looks like a bomb went off inside.
He and his wife Dalcie along with their two-year-old daughter Gloria are staying in the kitchen of the partially flooded dining hall near his house. The hall usually serves hundreds of boarding students at the Navesau Adventist High School. The students have all returned home until the school reopens once the facilities are fixed. A week after the cyclone, the dining hall is still flooded. There is mud smeared all over the floor and part of the roof has come off. Window louvers are broken and the wind howls through.
John’s house is completely unliveable. Wrecked appliances lie wasted on the floor amongst damp clothes and spoiled books – his wife’s precious literature library in ruins. Yet John remains remarkably upbeat.
“This is not too bad compared to those who lost family members,” he says. “All these books and tables and stuff can be replaced. Those families who lost family members – that’s beyond repair and our prayer is for them. But we can buy new books tomorrow and buy new tables and fix the chair. So I’m glad that we didn’t lose our life here in Navesau, and I thank God for that.”
With some clarity, John remembers running into the dining hall to shelter from the cyclone.
“It started at 3pm and went on for four, five, six hours. We were lying on the tables because the whole place was flooded.”
“It was terrible, one of a kind. I could say I’ve never experienced something so devastating. Broken glass [flying] and the sound of rushing wind, all this corrugated iron… it was just a mixture of feelings going through [my head]. It was like in a movie, in a horror movie. Much more than that because I’m experiencing it first hand.”
With the danger now passed, John shows me around his house.
“I really don’t know how to describe it. It’s upside down if that’s a good way to describe it. It’s upside down. This used to be our home and it’s completely destroyed,” he says. “When the hurricane hit we just saved what we could – clothes on our backs, and a little bit of food here and there and just ran off for safety. I guess the hurricane came in a little bit earlier than predicted.”
The biggest needs right now, John says, are shelter and food. He’s optimistic about how long it will take to rebuild.
“If the materials are there and manpower, one, two or three months tops,” he says. “With the amount of damage in this area, yes I believe it will take that much time.”
Living in the dining hall is proving challenging, especially not knowing how long it will last.
“It’s quite difficult at the moment,” John says. “When it rains it doesn’t feel good, [or] when it’s sunny. I guess we need a home as soon as possible.”
“But we’ll see whatever turns up and see how God provides.”
ADRA has already provided 1,000 families with food and hygiene kits in Ra Province, one of the worst affected areas. ADRA is planning further distributions of shelter, food and hygiene supplies to thousands more families in coming weeks.
Please donate now to ADRA’s Disaster Relief Fund to help people like John’s family recover in their time of disaster.
~ ~ ~
By Josh Dye
~ ~ ~