Sharing the Pacific Spirit in the Wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston

Fiji is more than just a beautiful holiday destination. For many Pacific people, it’s home. And regardless of where we were yesterday – whether we were watching it unfold on the news, huddled up in our living rooms or pressed up inside a cupboard with our loved ones – the devastation of Tropical Cyclone Winston terrified us all.

As we begin to come to grips with the damage and loss of lives, you’re probably thinking of what we can do to help. Aside from the obvious advice from authorities, there are also a few things you should consider before you hit the ground running.

Check in on the most vulnerable members of your community

The elderly, poor or homeless, people with a disability, loved ones with an illness, and young families – they all need our support now more than ever. Something as simple as a visit or a phone call can make all the difference. In the wake of a natural disaster it’s important that people who are already marginalised in our society are not forgotten.

Don’t be so quick to donate

We all want to help. But before you hand over any donations, be mindful that at these early stages it’s hard to fully assess exactly what kind of help is needed most. The best thing we can do right now is wait. In the meantime, contact your loved ones and offer comfort and support where you can. Once we hear from officials and credible sources on the full extent of the damage and the aid that’s being provided (internationally and locally) we will then have the opportunity to fill in the gaps and help people where and how they need it most.

Have open conversations with your community

Meet with community members, discuss ideas and work on a strategy to provide meaningful assistance. It’s important to understand that the effects of a natural disaster can last for weeks, months and even years. Initially, support will be offered in the form of clothes, food and shelter, but there will also be a huge need for long-term support. People will need healthcare and medication, trauma support, counselling, farming assistance, study materials and more. We will need short-term and long-term strategies to make sure that our people aren’t forgotten long after they are no longer on the news.

The Pacific spirit is what binds us together in times such as these. Even in our own suffering, we find the strength to rise up and do whatever’s necessary to rebuild and recover – all with a smile on our face and a joyful noise on our lips. These terrible circumstances give way for stories of survival, resilience and hope in the midst of devastation and despair. Those are the stories I will be looking for. Those are the stories that will keep us going. Until then, we will continue to come together to help one another, one person, family and home at a time.

(photo credit: Joe Yaya)

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