Hope, love and furniture to damaged schools

Venkat Raman – 

Hundreds of tables, chairs and other furniture items were delivered to schools that were damaged by Tropical Cyclone Winston, thanks to the efforts of a few Samaritans, with timely support and benevolence of a number of New Zealand and Fijian businesses including Air New Zealand.

Former Ba Mayor and former President of International Congress of Fiji Inc (ICFI) Ahemad Bhamji, Honorary Consul for Fiji in Auckland Harish Lodhia and Nik Naidu, Director of Auckland based PC King were the prime movers of the mammoth task of gathering furniture items from schools and offices around the Auckland region.

The Samaritans

Indian Newslink is happy and proud to have provided the link. Reading an appeal from Mr Bhamji that appeared on the front page of our March 15, 2016, Naomi McKinnon, an Auckland resident and an Air New Zealand official contacted us offering help.

“There are many schools in Auckland that can spare furniture. All it takes is to visit and find out. I am prepared to help,” Ms McKinnon said.

Logistics, inspection of furniture to ensure that they are suitable to the schools in Fiji and the means (containers) to carry them were the challenges that faced Messers Bhamji, Lodhia and Naidu.

“People have been extremely kind and helpful and no one turned us away, Mr Bhamji said, adding, “we visited the schools and offices that were ready to donate their furniture and then arranged containers with the help of a number of businesses in Auckland. It took us less than five days to arrange 12 containers (a record for Fiji through private initiatives) and the Fijian government was extremely cooperative and helpful in clearing the cargo through customs procedures.”

Destinations reached

A ship, loaded with the containers offloaded them in Lautoka and Suva seaports on April 17, 2016.

Twelve schools that were in dire need of furniture received them less than three days later, as containers were delivered to their precincts.

The names of beneficiary schools and those who helped in the collection and carriage of containers are mentioned at the end of this report.

A report appearing in Fiji Times (April 21) placed the total value of the furniture at NZ$ 150,000 (F$ 215,000) and said that Ms McKinnon, a Fijian, now resident in New Zealand, was of immense help.

“Two containers have been set aside for St John’s College in Levuka while the other 10 containers have been distributed to schools in Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki,” Mr Bhamji told the publication.

Fiji Times reported that about 240 schools were damaged or completely destroyed by TC Winston and that preliminary damage assessment was estimated at F$ 41.69 million. It reported Mr Bhamji as saying that ICFI had an interest in education and had invested about F$ 865,000 to cater to the needs of schoolchildren since 2002.

“We decided to look at the schools, assessed the damage and went back to NZ and made a plea for assistance. “Air New Zealand contacted us, they had 10 container loads of office furniture. We also obtained furniture from Tamaki College and Glen Innes Primary School. Neptune Shipping gave the containers and shipment free of charge to Lautoka and Suva. Cartage and transportation assistance was provided by Ashabhai, trucking company Crawford Walker, UB Freights, RC Manubai and General Machinery,” Mr Bhamji said.

Beneficiary Schools: St Johns College Ovalau (Ba), Sanatan College (Ba), Sarava Sanatan Primary School (Ba), Kamil College (Ba), Arya Kanya Patshala School (Ba), Tavua College (Tavua), Ra Public High School (Rakiraki), Penang Sangam (Primary/High) Schools (Rakiraki), Nukoloa Sanatan College (Ba), Moto Sanatan Primary (Ba), Koroboya Primary School (Ba), Ba Muslim Primary School (Ba), Varavu Muslim Primary School (Ba), Tavua Muslim Primary School (Tavua), Rakiraki Muslim Primary School (Rakiraki), Ratu Lalabalavu Secondary School, Solevu Village (Malolo Island)          

Acknowledgments in Fiji

“Many people gave their valuable time and put in additional effort in ensuring that the containers were cleared from the wharf and delivered within five days. Several businesses generously donated personnel and services that ensured the distribution process went smoothly. We are grateful to numerous Fiji Government agencies, which made the whole exercise go through with speed and efficiency,” Mr Bhamji said.

He acknowledges the following:

Setariki Tale, Commissioner Central, Fiji for waiving of port charges

Sitiveni Tavaga, Divisional Planning Officer Western, Fiji for receiving containers on behalf of the Fiji government

Albert Wise, Divisional Education Officer Western, Fiji for accepting furniture on behalf of schools

Captain John Fox, Fiji Navy, Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Fiji Navy for facilitating delivery of two containers to St Johns College, Ovalau

Ports Authority of Fiji for expediting port clearance

Bio-Security Department, Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority for fast tracking inspections

UB Freight: Rajinesh, Ravin and Ajeshwar for working over-time to get the containers released in two days

Brent Roxburg, Air New Zealand Manager for Fiji and Vanuatu and Fanny Gibson, Air New Zealand Representative, Fiji for helping in the delivery of furniture

Rentokil Lautoka for donating the cost of fumigation

Ajnil Singh and Sashi, General Machinery for providing cartage at cost, and instant delivery to schools

R C Manubhai & Co Ltd for subsidy of cartage costs

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