The difficulties of getting aid to the remote islands of Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam has slowed the relief effort, leaving many islanders without the means to survive and rebuild their lives.
The owners of two yachts berthed in Gulf Harbour marina have taken matters into their own hands, and are setting sail for the islands, packed with items donated by Coast residents.
Cyclone Pam was one of the worst to hit land and around 20 of Vanuatu’s more than 80 islands are in desperate need.
Sherry and Dennis Day, owners of the yacht Trillium, and their friends John and Joyce Easteal, who own Starblazer, spent time in Vanuatu last year and got to know the people, particularly on Avokh and Tanna Islands.
With a trip already planned to the Pacific Islands for the Pacific Circuit Rally, they decided to gather as many resources as possible and deliver them to Vanuatu.
“The people we met live a very simple life,” Dennis says. “Because we stayed in their villages we have some insight into what they may need. The people on the outlying islands will be the last ones to get any help and sailing allows us to reach them.”
Sherry says a chance connection with Wentworth College teacher Amy Fisher and Whangaparaoa Rotary Club last month saw donations of money and materials begin to roll in.
Wentworth’s Fleming House organised a charity day on March 27, where students brought small, lightweight objects for Vanuatu, including fishing hooks and line, pegs and washing line, string, pencils, kitchen utensils, tools, soap and seeds. They also donated a stack of old school uniforms.
Whangaparaoa Rotary president Brian Mullan and Rotarian Sarah Carr are coordinating the effort in the wider community.
“Our Rotary district includes Vanuatu, Norfolk Island and New Caledonia, which is why it’s so important that we help,” Sarah says.
Brian says that as well as many items donated by residents, businesses came on board, with hand tools provided by Mitre 10.
The yachts are leaving Gulf Harbour to sail to Opua for the Pacific Circuit Rally just after Easter and will depart from there to the Pacific Islands on May 2. They expect to be in Vanuatu in July.
“We hope that by then basic services will be restored, and people will have the bare necessities. But we know that everything we can take with us will be desperately needed,” Sherry says.
Sarah Carr says that no more contributions of goods are needed, as there is limited capacity on the boats.
However, Rotary is appealing for funds, 100 percent of which will be used for the aid effort, including providing Emergency Response Kits and Shelter boxes to the islands.
The funds may also support families as they rebuild their homes and re-establish vegetable gardens, and assist with health and education issues.
NZ Disaster Response practitioners are also on stand by to go to Vanuatu to specifically assist Rotary.
Donations can be made at any Westpac Branch or Give a Little, www.givealittle.co.nz/org/rnzwcs/share
Schools aid Vanuatu
Schools are big contributors to the relief effort. Among the initiatives are:
- Kingsway School has had relationship with Nikaura School on the island of Epi in Vanuatu since 2006. The school opened a Vanuatu Cyclone Fund account for financial contributions and held a mufti day on March 27. All proceeds go to the rebuilding of Nikaura Village.
- Orewa College will hold a mufti day for years 7–10 on April 2, as well as a festival gala. The school hopes to raise more than $2000.
- Whangaparaoa College regularly runs school trips to Vanuatu, and students who travelled there are organising a fundraising effort, with details still to be confirmed.
- Orewa North Primary held a Wheels Day, collecting gold coin donations for Vanuatu.
- Red Beach School held a collection on March 24 and will also contribute with journals, books and other school equipment.