New Zealand businesses and individuals have chipped in generously to help Fijians devastated by this month’s severe flooding following Cyclone Josie.
Five lives were lost and significant damage to homes and farms has been reported, dealing a severe blow to western Fiji’s agriculture sector. Businesses in the western urban centres of Ba and Nadi have also suffered big losses to the flooding.
“The support from New Zealanders has been quite overwhelming,” Fiji’s Honorary Consul in Auckland Harish Lodhia told Pacific Periscope.
“We had hoped to send two full containers of clothing, home essentials and non-perishable foods, but we have actually collected stuff to fill four containers,” he said.
Auckland supermarkets had sent in pallets full of tinned food, tea, coffee, plastic tubs, buckets and other home essentials while people chipped in with bed linen, towels, new and pre-loved clothing besides non-perishable food items.
“It’s not just people from Auckland — we’ve received things from Hamilton and further afield from Palmerston North and New Plymouth,” Mr Lodhia said.
Contributions of the items also came from religious groups – temples, churches and mosques – and even senior citizens’ groups, Mr Lodhia revealed.
The initiative called ‘Friends Reaching Out’ is Mr Lodhia’s brainchild and he is quick to acknowledge the contribution and help from his fellow businessman and friend Jagdish Punja.
“Jagdish and I have started this activity during a natural disaster six years ago,” Mr Lodhia said. After Cyclone Winston in 2016, the pair helped dispatch 10 containers full of relief materials.
Two charitable organisations in Fiji that are well-recognised by the Fijian Government have been tasked with distributing the items in the affected areas of the western region, Mr Punja said. The Sri Sathya Sai Sansthan will distribute in the town of Ba and the surrounding villages while the Ramakrishna Mission will with the distribution in and around Nadi.
“These organisations will ensure that the items reach where they are needed most – at the grassroots level in the villages,” Mr Punja added.
The first two of the 20-foot containers will leave Auckland on Thursday and the other two next week. Mr Lodhia acknowledged the role of Neptune Shipping that provided the containers and sponsored the shipping costs.
“We are grateful to our volunteers who have worked tirelessly,” Mr Punja said.
He has appealed for more volunteers to come forth as relief material continues to pour in: “We are desperately looking for volunteers to come and help us stack the cartons into the containers.”
The organisers have requested donors to pack their materials in cartons instead of plastic bags and rubbish bags. “For our small team of volunteers, it is hard to source cartons to repack all the goods that comes in plastic bags,” Mr Punja added.
“A very big thank you to all who have so generously come forward to help people in Fiji who have been so badly affected,” Consul Lodhia said.
For more information email Editor, PTI Pacific Periscope Dev Nadkarni at email@example.com