Local students assist in disaster voluntary recovery work in Fiji
BY JARED KOLI
“LOVE your neighbour as you love yourself,” said young Eugene Gavibatu, “does not refer to the ones close to your home.”
“It actually refers to being compassionate and help people that are in need and in distress,” the final year Land Management student at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji, puts it.
Gavibatu of Choiseul Province and Bryan Wale of Malaita early this month assist on disaster recovery voluntary work by erecting a new home for an elderly couple at Yaqaga island, close to Fiji’s second-largest island of Vanua Levu.
This follows the aftermath of category five Tropical Cyclone Yasa which tore through Vanua Levu early this year, destroying more than a thousand homes and claimed four lives.
The elderly couple also lost their home during the severe storm.
Gavibatu and Wale were joined by two other university students from Fiji, accompanied by their supervisor traveled the 173-kilometer journey from Suva to Yaqaga island on March 2, 2021 and commenced work on March 3rd.
They complete the new dwelling ground floor home on the fifth day. Building materials for the construction of the new home and the trip was made possible through support by Nephrologist Dr Amrish Krishnan of the Kidney Hub in Suva.
Inspired by the popular teaching from the parable of the good Samaritan in the Bible, Gavibatu said he felt that to go out and help rebuild the lives of the elderly couple was a special calling.
“When Jesus spoke of this parable, he taught us to help the needy, people who you never met them before and who had been through a lot in life.
“Those that are faced by disaster, living in fear and depression and those that the society had turn their back towards them,” the softly spoken Choiseul lad, said.
Bryan Wale, a final-year student at the Fiji National University (FNU) said the pain of losing a home is what motivates him to go out and volunteer.
“If I put myself in their shoes, it would be surely a bad experience indeed. So since the opportunity was given to volunteer, I decided that I must go and help to rehabilitate the elderly couple.
“It’s beyond one’s imagination to witness someone to have gone through such devastating experience but I felt happy to put a smile on their face again,” said Wale.
The two Solomon Islands students said Fiji has been their home for the past few years and provided for them a lot, and as good citizens and ambassadors of Solomon Islands, it is time to give back to the community.
Tropical Cyclone Yasa assessment has revealed that 1500 homes were destroyed while 6000 damaged. Four lives were also lost during the cyclone. Radio New Zealand reported it caused around $250 million worth of damage to infrastructure, agriculture and livelihoods.
It was the strongest tropical cyclone in the South Pacific since Winston in 2016, as well as the fourth most intense tropical cyclone on record in the basin.
Dr Amrish Krishnan of the Kidney Hub in Suva who supported the voluntary work with funds is not new to helping people that were in the midst of trouble.
In May 2020 he and his best friend, Dr Ahemd Shakeel of Kidney Hub in Nadi offer free services to those who lost their job as a result of Covid-19.
“Dr Krishnan, had thought that helping people in the midst of his own struggles would help make the world a better place in these trying times,” cited Fiji Sun.
This is also not the first time Solomon Islands students in Fiji assist in disaster voluntary and relief efforts in Fiji. In May 2020 Solomon Islands students studying at Fiji universities donate food, clothing and cash to 18 families who were badly affected by Tropical Cyclone Harold.
In July 2016, a 22-year-old Solomon Islands student Randy Chite walked around the island of Viti Levu, raising more than a thousand dollars for people affected by Cyclone Winston.