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Cyclones are a fact of life for people of the Pacific, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying. Each year, families and communities prepare for tropical cyclone season, knowing the wrath of the wind is never far away. “Like a stick smashing against the wall, it continues all night long, scaring the hell out of me,” says Salote Maramaciriciri, a Red Cross volunteer.
Coming from Suva, Fiji, Salote has experienced her fair share of cyclones, year after year living through the terror of the season, hoping her loved ones will make it through unharmed.
On recalling Tropical Cyclone Winston, the most powerful cyclone to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere, Salote says she’ll never forget the ferocious winds that ripped houses from their foundations, stripped fields of their crops and coconuts from their trees. "Heading into the villages was like two different countries, like crossing a border. In one village we came to, of the sixteen houses, there was only one left with a roof, and that was sheltering the women and children."
This sight would have been hard to forget; to look into the faces of a mother, a father or a grandmother, and to know the loss reflected there could be etched forever.
More and more we hear on the radio or see on the news the devastating impact of natural disasters, how they can strike without warning, taking only a moment for the livelihoods of friends, families and communities to be destroyed.
Sadly, we’ve seen this first-hand at home with earthquakes, floods and the remnants of cyclones lashing our shores. We’ve learned the importance of being able to respond to the immediate needs of a community, as well as providing ongoing emotional support.
Cate Keville, a Red Cross delegate based in Wellington, provided psychological first aid training to Salote and knows the important role this plays in helping people. “It’s about giving them back some control when they may feel they have none. We know people recover better in the long term if they have emotional and practical support immediately after an event. It can be easy to rebuild a house, but helping people recover may take a little longer,” reflected Cate.
With cyclone season looming yet again, our Pacific neighbours have enormous challenges ahead, making it an incredibly frightening time for many families. New Zealand Red Cross has been busy working with Pacific societies in community outreach; increasing first aid training and disaster preparedness across local communities. But we can't do this without your help.
Join us by providing your support today and make a real difference to the livelihoods of people in the Pacific. While you can't stop cyclones from happening, you can help communities prepare for them, cope with them and put their lives back together when they're over.