Indian Newslink and Honorary Consul for Fiji in Auckland Harish Lodhia were major sources of strength in sending 12 containers of donated furniture to re-equip many schools that were damaged by the Tropical Cyclone Winston on February 21, 2016.
Naomi McKinnon, a Fijian resident contacted this newspaper after reading the front page report in its March 15, 2016 issue. Marty Forsman, Sustainability Manager at Air New Zealand, who had also read the report, was motivated to offer his support and assistance.
Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most destructive hurricane on record in the Southern Hemisphere, caused widespread devastation to large parts of Fiji on February 21, 2016.
A week after the Cyclone, I visited Fiji and travelled from Nadi through to Rakiraki. I noticed that a large number of schools were severely damaged, and many had lost their roofs, damaging desks, chairs, blackboards, and other furniture and contents.
I carried out an assessment of 15 schools that were badly affected, and met with the relevant people at each school, and made a list of their needs.
All of them wanted teaching to resume as soon as possible, and although major repairs would take time, the immediate needs were furniture, stationery, books and school uniforms.
On my return to New Zealand in early March, I suggested to the International Congress of Fiji Inc (ICFI) Board about these needs and received the support of the board members to proceed with the necessary tasks.
The Board also generously allocated NZ$ 12,500 for packing and transportation and an additional amount of F$ 10,000 for meeting various related expenses in Fiji.
Attorney General’s support
Last month, I met Fiji’s Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who was visiting Auckland and received his support for the project. Finance Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Mohammed Jabid issued tax and duty exemptions, greatly facilitating our efforts.
We obtained 12 freight-free shipping containers to Fiji, and with the funds approved by ICFI, filled them with the donated furniture. The containers were leaving Auckland for Fiji at press time – two to Suva and 10 to Lautoka. Mr Lodhia and I will be in Fiji on April 17 to ensure delivery of the furniture to the designated schools.
We are grateful to the following organisations and individual for their support as donors, support in managing the logistics and volunteering to collect the furniture items and help in their shipment. Their solidarity and timely assistance have given us the confidence that New Zealander will also rise to the occasion when there is a need.
We are grateful to the following:
- Air New Zealand (and Mr Marty Forsman) for donating office furniture (10 containers)
2.Tamaki College for donating 120 students’ desks, two office tables, one bookshelf and two whiteboards
- Parnell Primary School (Anna Hedstrom) for donating 90 students’ desks;
- Ninety students’ chairs, four office tables, two whiteboards
- Glen Innes Primary School for donating 20 students’ desks, 20 students’ chairs;
- Panmure Bridge Primary School for donating 20 students’ desks, 40 students’ chairs, six assorted office tables, two steel filing cabinets, 15 cartons assorted children’s books
- Neptune Pacific Agency (Pacific Forum Line) (and Mr Michael Swan) – for donating 12 containers and freight from Auckland to Suva/Lautoka
- Crawford & Walker Custom Brokers (Mr Andrew Crawford) – for a discounted rate on cartage of 12 containers
- UB Freight (Mr Rohit Narayan) – for custom clearance in Fiji
- Tahi Pacific Ltd- Ashon Ventures, Ashabhai’s, Prakash Patel) for paying the balance of cartage costs of 12 Containers
- Naomi McKinnon (former Fiji school teacher at Gospel High School) – for arranging and organising furniture from schools throughout Tamaki
- Pranil Lal, Hector Zinc, Tito Daurewa and former students of St Johns College, Ovalau and their team for packing two containers and arranging delivery from Suva to Levuka
- Harish Lodhia, Honorary Fiji Consul in Auckland for facilitating and arranging with Air New Zealand, Neptune Pacific, Crawford & Walker, Parnell Primary School and his overall support
- Four and Rotary (Azhar Bhamji and his crew) for helping pack 10 containers
- Michael Swan and Neptune Pacific Agency (Pacific Forum Line), Andrew Crawford of Crawford & Walker Custom Brokers
- Rohit Narayan from UB Freight, Prakash Patel from Tahi Pacific Ltd (Ashon Ventures/Ashabhai’s)
- Radio Tarana and Indian Newslink for media coverage
Ahemad Bhamji is former President of International Congress of Fiji Inc and a community worker. We will continue our coverage of relief efforts in the ensuing issues.