Cyclone Winston, the South Pacific region’s strongest ever tropical cyclone in recorded history, devastated Fiji on February 20 this year.
At last count, more than 31,000 homes and buildings were either destroyed or damaged across the country’s islands. The cost of the damage has been assessed at F$2 billion, according to some estimates.
While emergency supplies, volunteers and financial aid flowed into Fiji from all over the world, the Pacific Trade & Invest (PT&I) Network chipped in with all its offices doing their bit to address the situation. From organising fund raisers to putting together trade missions, the PT&I teams in Auckland, Beijing, Geneva, Sydney and Tokyo busied themselves with a range of activities. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) team in Suva sent volunteers and supplies to the affected areas as soon as they were able to reach them.
The Auckland team was involved in two activities: As part of the New Zealand Fiji Business Council the PT&I team helped in a fundraising effort that lead to a $5,000 donation being made to the Prime Ministers Fund.
In a separate initiative, the team also supported PT&I NZ Ambassador Chef Robert Oliver in a ‘Taste of Fiji’ Fundraiser held at the Cloud events centre on Auckland’s waterfront that saw a steady stream of visitors dropping in to enjoy a range of Fijian treats prepared by some of Auckland’s finest chefs, while helping raise funds.
The Beijing PT&I team paid for a table at a fundraiser organised by the international schools of Beijing, held at the prestigious Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, which raised funds for school rebuilding in areas affected by the cyclone. The team was joined on the table by business contacts who also helped to fund the effort.
The Beijing office also actively advised visitors of popular Chinese social networking website WeChat that Fiji Tourism was open for business, helping dispel any notions about the closure of tourism infrastructure following the cyclone.
PT&I Geneva made a significant donation to the relief effort in Fiji toward emergency supplies and reconstruction.
A PT&I Sydney team member attended the Cyclone Winston Charity Breakfast that Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Fiji Tourism Action Group co-organised to raise funds to support affected families. PT&I Sydney also supported the Tropical Cyclone Winston Relief Association fundraising efforts by providing sponsorship toward the Digicel Hong Kong 7s fundraising ‘Picnic at the Park’ event in April.
As a member of Japan-Pacific Islands Community, Pacific Islands Centre (as the PT&I Network’s Japan office is known) supported and joined the special event “Fiji – Worst Tropical Cyclone Winston Coverage & Rehabilitation Appeal” organised by the Embassy of Fiji in Japan.
PIC also supported a donation campaign, “Cyclone Winston Relief Appeal Fund”, organised by the Embassy of Fiji in Tokyo and received a letter of appreciation from Fiji’s Ambassador to Japan Isikeli Mataitoga.
The PIFS team in Suva, being closest to the affected areas, was first off the blocks with relief, supplies, volunteers and financial aid. More than $1,500 in cash was collected as well a considerable amount of clothing that filled up filling up at least a couple of double cab vehicles. Materials for building temporary shelters such as tarpaulins, ropes, hammers and other building hardware were also despatched as soon as it was possible and safe to travel to the affected areas, some of which were on the outer islands.