From The Fiji Times
TEARS OF JOY FOR VILLAGERS
Savenaca Baleidravuni And Samisoni Pareti, Saturday, November 19, 2016
THE afternoon Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston struck Koro, a group of Jehovah's Witnesses near Naqaidamu Village cuddled together in their church they call the Kingdom Hall, as it was the only building left standing after all houses nearby were flattened.
A number of those who took refuge in the Kingdom Hall were children, one of them an eight months old baby.
They were sheltering from the onslaught of gusting winds with speed up to 375km per hour-the strongest cyclone to have visited our shores!
Little did they know that another phenomenon was about to strike. Suddenly gigantic waves started to pound the walls of the Kingdom Hall.
The angry waves ripped the doors, windows, and walls, forcing everyone out.
"We swam for about 400 metres through the bushes amid flying debris and corrugated tins," Taito Vakaciwa, one of the survivors explained.
"At the same time you are twisting and turning with everything the gigantic wave collects in its path.
"When our feet touched the ground, we crawled to higher grounds to seek refuge in the mountains on a spot we have all agreed to assemble prior to the storm hitting.
"We watched from the mountains as the gigantic waves took everything into the sea. When the winds subsided, we could not come down.
"There was nothing to come down to. There were no houses left, nothing was left."
Happily, Taito Vakaciwa and others who were left homeless eight months ago now have a home each — a complete home with kitchen, bathroom, and toilet.
A home designed for each family — a one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and a three-bedroom depending on the need of the family.
"The homes were especially designed not only to provide them with a comfortable place to live," says Colin Radford the co-ordinator of the project.
"It was also designed to withstand a cyclone of Category 5 magnitude."
A day after the cyclone, Bui Vakaciwa, an elderly woman in her late '60s sat outside her demolished home not knowing what to do.
With only a plastic of clothes she was able to collect after the storm, she wondered what the future would bring.
Her sons' houses were destroyed too so there was literally no other place to go.
Today, eight months after Winston, as she walked into her newly-built home, she could not hold back tears of joy and gratitude to those who have worked hard into making all this possible, and especially to the Almighty God she had faithfully served for decades.
Vasenai Bati, also a recipient of a new home echoed the same sentiment.
She resides at Nadakeke settlement in Sinuvaca Village on Koro Island, and said they were so fortunate to have been given a new home.
The home they have been privileged to receive not only provides them shelter, but it is a house that is much better and secure than what they previously owned.
To date, all 14 houses that needed to be built for members of the Jehovah Witness church on Koro Island have been completed.
These comprised five three-bedroom houses, six two-bedroom houses, and three single bedroom houses.
One thing that stands out in the whole rebuilding process is the love and care shown by volunteers who came from all parts of Fiji to lend a hand in this purely voluntary rebuilding effort.
Volunteers even came from as far as Vanuatu, the Philippines, Australia, and Japan.
These volunteers came with a desire to be a source of encouragement and strength to the affected, but in return, they felt that they were the ones who were encouraged instead, and built up by the love and care shown to them by locals.