Vanua Balavu, Fiji
Hollywood actor Mel Gibson played an unlikely role in rescuing three female staff from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) after they became stranded in Vanua Balavu, Fiji’s eastern-most island and one of the hardest hit by Cyclone Winston.
The boat was so overcrowded and unsafe. I was just afraid we were going to sink.
The women became stuck when their return flight to Suva was cancelled, leaving them on the devastated island with severe water and food shortages and where an estimated 70 per cent of houses were destroyed.
But an unlikely rescue plan was hatched: the three staff were taken to nearby Mago Island, owned by Mr Gibson, where they stayed the night in his house and took his private plane back to Suva the next morning.
Getting to Vanua Balavu required a 30-hour boat trip on an overcrowded vessel. One of the relief workers, Anna Krikun from ADRA Germany, said she feared for her life. “The boat was so overcrowded and unsafe,” she said. “I was just afraid we were going to sink.”
In March, ADRA delivered almost 6000 packs of Weet-Bix and So Good, donated by Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, to remote communities in Ra Province who missed out on earlier food assistance.
In total, more than 10,000 people across Viti Levu and Vanua Levu have now received food and hygiene packs from ADRA, thanks to generous donations totalling more than $A200,000.
Further responses are continuing, with ADRA securing funding through the United Nations Flash Appeal ($US110,000) and the European Union (€300,000) to provide shelter and hygiene assistance.
ADRA and the Fiji Mission have been working closely together, with many church volunteers assisting ADRA’s distributions to remote communities.