VILLAGES COME TOGETHER DURING CYCLONE PAM
My name is Job and I am a Field Project Officer in Vanuatu for Act for Peace and the Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC). My job is very busy as I train the people of Vanuatu to prepare for disasters and climate change consequences.
It is now almost six months since Cyclone Pam and I wanted thank you for your gifts which have made our work here possible and to share with you what is happening in Vanuatu.
First let me tell you about Cyclone Pam. When the department of Meteorology issued warnings, my team and I secured our office, homes and the church – which was our evacuation centre. From training, our community knew to firstly
evacuate the elderly, disabled and children because they need help getting to the church.
When the cyclone hit I was in the church with my wife, families from our village and our pastor. No one was allowed to go out to check their homes because of all the flying debris. During the night the roof was making a lot of noise and
eventually lifted off. It was very frightening as the ceiling fans were falling down. There was one small boy who could easily have been injured so we all sheltered and covered him. Thankfully, because of our training and practice of
evacuation procedures we had done, no one was hurt!
People knew to take their important documents with them when they left their homes, things like drivers’ licences, and birth and marriage certificates. This helped later when we were accounting for everyone in the village.
Right after the cyclone, I did a lot of work on the island of Tongoa, which was hit very hard. I assessed communities and prioritised what they needed. I reported that all the fences were taken down by trees and debris and that pigs were running over the crops and destroying essential food for the people. It was urgent the fences were fixed. We flew in Community Fencing Kits which included pliers, staples, and chainsaws (with fuels and oil) - all the materials needed to reconstruct the fences. People got to work right away and everyone in the villages helped each other. This made me happy.
We also delivered water straws, a type of community water purification unit, to all the villages in Tongoa. These were placed in the health centres and schools so entire communities could access clean water. The tool kits and water straws will be used well into the future. And again, it was great to see everyone working together.
In Vanuatu, even though the cyclone came and took away our houses and belongings, we are still smiling and laughing. I would say the people in Vanuatu are the happiest people on earth despite what they’ve been through and seen.
• Give thanks for the safe keeping of Job and his village during Tropical Cyclone Pam.
• Pray for the strong community spirit to continue in Tongoa long into the future.
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Tropical Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu in March 2015. The category 5 cyclone tore through Vanuatu with wind gusts of up to 320km/hr, damaging at least 90% of homes in the capital Port Vila. Emergency workers found that the outlying islands were even harder hit, which made it extremely difficult to transport relief supplies to those in need. Act for Peace’s partner the Vanuatu Christian Council, thanks to your generous gifts, worked together with churches in Vanuatu to provide aid to villages as they rebuilt after the devastation.
As climate patterns intensify in the Pacific, Vanuatu is becoming increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters and extreme weather. Act for Peace is leading a Disaster Risk Reduction project which has been rolled out in Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. One of the goals of this program is to develop plans for extreme weather in order to minimise destruction and loss of life, while simultaneously teaching villages how to plan for and find solutions to the issues that they face.
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