Kamil Lakshman –
New Zealand’s humane approach to natural disasters was exemplified by its overwhelming support to the suffering families affected by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
Scores of schools and other public and private properties suffered total destruction, thousands of people have been left homeless, while many lost their loved ones.
The loss to the country’s economy is still being assessed but it would be in millions of dollars. Fiji would take time to recover but it is heartening to read and hear of positive response from all over the world.
According to reports, as I wrote this column, 42 people had died as the most powerful storm in the Southern Hemisphere hit Fiji causing havoc. Churches, roads and crops were destroyed in many places. About 67,000 people were rendered homeless.
The pictures and stories seen on our media were disturbing and tragic. Fiji is a small country, geographically isolated and vulnerable to natural disasters.
Flash floods caused by hurricanes have lashed Fiji in the past, especially in 2009 and 2012, but Winston was the worst.
Simple & Friendly
Fiji has many islands that are pristine and idyllic, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists from various parts of the world, especially Australia and New Zealand.
Fijians are simple, fun-loving and hospitable people, enhancing the country’s reputation as a great tourist destination.
As a responsible neighbour, New Zealand responded quickly, proving that it is a compassionate country. The government sent its ship HMNZS Wellington filled with about 60 tons of aid supplies, and 71 military personnel to help in relief efforts.
New Zealanders in general and those of Fijian origin in particular rallied together as associations, groups, and individuals to extend their solidarity and support.
At least 50 containers filled with food and essential supplies have been sent to Fiji. While those sent to specific organisations would have reached, many containers that are not properly designated are currently kept in wharfs. As well as clogging the system, the contents are likely to perish, rendering them useless.
Late last month, I launched an appeal in Wellington to fill a container to be railed to Tauranga so that it could be put on a ship leaving on March 12, 2016 destined for Ramakrishna Mission, a Non-Government Organisation involved in humanitarian work and community welfare projects.
This Appeal met with an outpouring of goods and support enabling a container to be filled within days. I immediately asked for another container which would also have left for Fiji at press time.
It has been an incredible journey full of emotions and compassion for our people in Fiji. It was also gratifying that the support and assistance readily given by a team of volunteers and the generous donations of people demonstrated their natural love and affection for people in their neighbouring country.
They gave in kind, in setting collection points, in giving donations and their precious time for this initiative and cause. There was so much goodness around this effort that I celebrate in paying tribute to a country that can give.
This Appeal created a platform for help. As it happens in every disaster, there are people willing to donate within their capacity but do not know how to go about it. Tropical Cyclone Winston created an environment in which some organisations and people assumed leadership and initiated moves to collect money and essential supplies and sent them to Fiji. We are now aware as to how we should respond in times of crisis and help victims of natural disasters.
I am grateful to everyone who offered their support and patronage.
Kamil Lakshman is a Lawyer & Principal of Wellington based law firm Idesi Legal Limited. She can be contacted on (04) 4616018 or 021-1598803. Email: email@example.com
Kamil Lakshman (standing, Centre) with her colleagues and volunteers after loading the first container of essential supplies to Fiji last fortnight.