Here is a short brief of my first trip to Salialevu & Ura Estates (belonging to Shangri-La) on the Island of Taveuni as a CSR volunteer, part of Post Cyclone Winston “Mercy Mission Team”.
We left on a Monday morning 29/02/16 to board the ferry from Suva to Taveuni. It was a 20-hour trip stopping off also in Koro and Savusavu. I really couldn’t imagine the level of damage and also the living conditions of the people in our two estates in Ura and Salialevu.
We got on a pickup truck from the ferry which brought us to Ura estate, where we all slept on the floor the first night. Emma, the lady in charge of the house, showed us where we would be sleeping for the next seven days. We chose an area on the floor and settled in. Ten of us in one big room, this was also where we took our meals. Breakfast was hot sweet tea with babakau (a local baked bread), and dinner was dalo (local root vegetable) with fish or chicken curry. The people did not have much but whatever they had they always shared with us. Living with these people was a very humbling and rewarding experience. They shared many stories of how they survived in the storm, of how they had no idea if their families were okay, of how they hid in the long grass. I didn’t know how many people were staying in a packed house like us, I would guess around twenty to twenty-five. We soon got used to the daily ritual of getting up by 6.30am, quick shower from the big tub of rain water using the empty margarine tub as the bucket to pour over ourselves, and then breakfast. Our relief work in a day included cleaning lots of broken down houses, salvaging what we could for rebuilding, working on fencing and cutting down fallen trees. By 6.30pm we would go for a bath in the ocean and wash the clothes we were wearing at the same time, then, hang on the line for the next day. Dinner always followed with some kava, then off to bed/floor until next morning. It was really something special to be part of the team.
Not only did we leave our physical mark through the work that we had done but we were also able to re-energise these poor people to get back up and start to rebuild their broken lives. Taveuni and its people will forever be in my heart.
Director of Food & Beverage at Shangri-La’s Fiji Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island