Press Release – ADRA New Zealand
In Nadi, amongst the fallen trees, dangling, broken power lines, smashed signs and destroyed homes is a little oasis of peace and tranquility. That place is Andrews Primary school atop the hill overlooking Nadi town.Children centred approach to emergency response in Fiji
In Nadi, amongst the fallen trees, dangling, broken power lines, smashed signs and destroyed homes is a little oasis of peace and tranquility. That place is Andrews Primary school atop the hill overlooking Nadi town.
I entered the school less than 24 hours after Cyclone Evan left the shores of Fiji and not a branch or leaf was out of place. Children were playing rugby on the neatly manicured lawns and the place had a distinct feeling of calm productivity.
As I tour the school, two people emerge as the reasons why this place is so well organized. Josep Kotowala, 35, has worked in emergencies in Fiji for years and he is in charge of reporting and managing the Cyclone Evan response for the school’s newest residents: evacuees.
Mr. Kotowala talks hard and fast about the response, with more than 500 people he is responsible for, he doesn’t have too much time to make small talk. Called away quickly on another urgent errand, Torika Masinika, the evacuation centre manager, steps up to finish the tour.
Torika Masinika is a woman with a mission: to make Cyclone Evan a pleasant memory for the children, not a scary one.
“It is important to preserve the memories of childhood. Here, the children come first,” says Torika.
“To make this happen, I’ve got some rules. These rules work.”
ADRA trained Torika in 2009, along with several other key community representatives under the NZ Aid funded Nadi/Ba Disaster Mitigation Project. She says it was that training that helped her understand how to manage a well run evacuation centre.
“Here are my rules:
1. Look after yourself and your family first. If you aren’t healthy in your mind and body, you can’t help anyone else.
2. Sometimes you have to be rude to be good. This means you have to speak straight and tell people the boundaries immediately or else peace can be lost.
3. Adults are allowed back into the effected areas but not children. Children should never have to see their homes destroyed; it can damage their childhood experience and cause trauma.
4. Water must be stored at all times. If the taps are running from the city system, no one can use the spare rainwater tanks.
5. Toilets have to be cleaned every time it is used no matter what.
6. Everyone is responsible for keeping their own space clean and tidy. Torika says that just because you survived the cyclone doesn’t mean you can’t get sick because of the effects of the cyclone on water and food.
7. No alcohol or kava is allowed on premises. Again, this is to preserve peace for the children.
8. Keep the kids busy and having fun at all times. If the kids are busy and happy, the parents will not worry and be allowed to get back to recovering from the cyclone.”
Torika credits ADRA for helping her on her journey working in emergencies as a volunteer and says the training has come to good use over a year with two floods and one Category Four cyclone.
“You see, it all revolves around the children because if your kids are happy, you don’t worry as much, you can go and fix your home. Children come first.”
Looking around at this most unlikely place to find happiness and children laughing, Torika is clearly doing something right.
ADRA is the worldwide humanitarian arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and operates in over 120 countries. To donate to the ADRA New Zealand Cyclone Evan Relief Appeal, please call 0800 4999111 or visit http://adra.org.nz/products-page/donate/
ADRA stands for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency. ADRA is the worldwide humanitarian arm of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It operates in over 120 countries to relieve human suffering regardless of a person’s ethnicity, race, gender, or political or religious association. ADRA partners with communities, organisations and governments to implement community development and emergency management projects for people facing hardship and poverty.
For Tropical Cyclone Evan, ADRA New Zealand has mobilised its Emergency Response Team to Fiji and Samoa to work with local ADRA offices and the community to provide relief such as food aid and assistance with water and sanitation. To support this response, ADRA New Zealand has launched an appeal and is now calling for donations.
Further information on ADRA is available at www.adra.org.nz