Many villages throughout the Yasawa chain of islands have sustained very considerable damage. In some only a couple of houses remain as most of the buildings have been destroyed or blown away by the cyclone. Food crops have also been wiped out.
"Cyclone Winston destroyed the Yasawa High School in Muaira on Naviti Island. While the winds ripped the roof and walls away, the children's desks and seats remained standing," reports photojournalist Richard Moore, who is travelling in the Yasawas under the auspices of the Vinaka Fiji Charitable Trust.
Vinaka Fiji's Operations Manager, Eleona Nimacere, said an estimated 2,000 villagers on Naviti Island have very limited food as a result of their crops being destroyed. “They are now preserving food in the traditional way. That is grating of kasava so they can cook it in leaves. That helps it last a long time. They are also drying out fish," she said.
CEO of Awesome Adventures Fiji and South Seas Cruises, Peter Duncan said "We are harnessing the support of passengers that are travelling with us in the islands to help with the distribution of aid throughout the communities. We are asking those passengers if they would like to get involved in helping to clean in villages close to the resorts they’re staying in.”
He said the response had been heartening with many holidaymakers willing help out to get the lives of the villagers back to some form of normality.
Ms Nimacere is currently on the ground facilitating distribution of much needed basic food supplies and tarpaulins and collecting data to assess ways in rebuilding the communities.
She is assisted by the local Vinaka Fiji team and volunteers from abroad that are already in Fiji with Vinaka Fiji's volunteering programmes that work in the areas of education, building sustainable communities and marine conservation.
Instead of working in these programmes, the volunteers are helping distribute food stuffs such as rice, sugar, flour and tinned fish, as well as tarpaulins.
Awesome Adventures Fiji and Blue Lagoon Cruises donated these supplies and shipped them from Port Denarau to the Yasawas aboard company vessels, including the Yasawa Flyer resort connection vessel and the boutique cruise ship, Fiji Princess.
Peter Duncan emphasised that the Yasawa villages even without the devastation caused by of a cyclone are very pared back communities relying mostly on fishing and root crops.
"Once their buildings are gone, there are hundreds of people that don’t have access to adequate shelter, there’s limitations of water and obviously their food supply chain has also been disrupted. These are the basic things that we are trying to address at the moment through Vinaka Fiji."
Vinaka Fiji needs your help, particularly with donations and building skills, to help these remote communities overcome the devastation and rebuild their homes, schools, villages and lives. In just a week since Vinaka Fiji launched its cyclone relief fund generous donors have given $16,269.00. More, much more, is needed.
If you would like to make – and help to make a difference - please visit www.vinakafiji.org.fj.
All funds raised will be spent directly in assisting the villages in the Yasawas to recover as Vinaka Fiji staff and administration costs are covered by South Seas Cruises Limited.