What we do
Ā mātau mahi
Shop with us
Nau mai, hoko atu
- Get involved Donate
Out of the headlines and no longer in our newsfeeds, it’s easy for many of us to forget the scale of destruction caused by Tropical Cyclone Winston.
But for the people who lived through – and are still living with – the destruction it caused, every day brings a reminder of Winston’s fury.
Winston was the strongest cyclone ever recorded in Fiji. When it tore across the country in February 2016, it left 44 people dead, thousands of buildings destroyed and almost half of Fiji’s population affected.
One of the people still feeling Winston’s impact is Makarita, who I meet in a small village in the north of Fiji.
Makarita is about the same age as my grandparents. She could only watch as waves whipped up by Winston washed away her home and all her belongings. She’s been sleeping a temporary shelter ever since.
The day I visit is hot and humid. We shelter under the shady veranda of the community meeting house, eating sweet bananas and chatting with her daughter.
At times, it’s hard to hear each other speak – the noise of hammers and saws echoes through the village and the surrounding hills, making conversation difficult.
But, judging from her smile, Makarita doesn’t seem to mind the racket. The noise is a good sign: it means her new home, being built by Red Cross, is one step closer to being finished.
“She never dreamed that Red Cross would come and build a new home for her and she’s very happy with it,” Lusiana, Makarita’s daughter, tells me. “Yesterday morning she was touring the house and she was telling herself, oh, I really love my home.”
Makarita is just one of thousands of people Red Cross has supported in the year since Winston. Red Cross volunteers have been working in communities all over Fiji to help people rebuild homes, access clean water and prepare for future storms.
Because, like the people left homeless by the cyclone, Red Cross staff and volunteers haven’t forgotten Winston’s damage either.
There are people like Seru, who, despite losing his own house, left his family for months to support those who had fared worse.
There are people like Sita, who in the days after the cyclone worked until 3am to make a difference.
There’s the volunteer who waded out of her flooded home carrying her child, before turning around to join a Red Cross team.
And there’s Siti, one of the carpenters working on Makarita’s home, who says he feels proud to be doing something good.
It’s these Red Cross teams that are making a real difference for communities hit by the cyclone.
We know Winston’s impact will continue to be felt in Fiji for a long time to come. But the work Red Cross is doing is ensures that, while the cyclone may not be forgotten, people like Makarita can start to feel safe again.