New Zealand Red Cross has supplied Fiji Red Cross with 18 satellite phones and two portable VHF repeater systems, each containing a repeater and six handheld radios.

The investment of $107,000 has proved its worth many times over with the equipment most recently used during Cyclone Evan, which devastated parts of Samoa and Fiji in December last year.

Twelve Pacific national societies received satellite phones and radios six years ago as part of a $1.2 million project funded by donations from New Zealand Red Cross Project Partners.

27-year-old volunteer Esala Nainoca has volunteered for Fiji Red Cross for five years, but was doing the ERT training for the first time. Esala’s village of Sigatoka on Fiji’s west coast was badly damaged in Cyclone Evan in December 2012, with six feet of water sweeping through his own house.

It was after responding to this disaster that Esala decided to give up his job as a salesman at a hotel, and volunteer for Red Cross fulltime. He says he found the radio training useful and enjoyed learning new technical skills.

“I like to help people who need it. It makes me feel good saving lives and getting people together.”

Another ERT volunteer, former member of parliament Nanise Nagusuca, says she’s motivated by the same desire to help others. When she joined Fiji Red Cross four years ago there was no president at her branch, so she stepped in and helped build up the branch to the 45 members it has today.

I love to serve the community, to help people, that’s why I do it. I have always been like that. During Cyclone Evan my house was flooded and Red Cross was there first. During any disaster Red Cross is always the first to arrive.

Despite being one of the oldest in the group of trainees at 59, Nanise picked up the radio exercises faster than many of those half her age and says she thoroughly enjoyed learning new skills.

“Almost all the topics are very interesting to me. I am looking forward to using my new skills to help during the next emergency.”

New Zealand Red Cross also provides ongoing refresher training for Fiji Red Cross staff and volunteers, including after Cyclone Evan, when aid workers Greg Johns and Matthew Poole spent two weeks in Fiji.