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No matter how hard the work, Merelesita Koro always finds time to smile when she’s helping people in need.
The twenty-year-old, known as Sita, now works as Fiji Red Cross’ safety administrator, but she started as a Red Cross volunteer after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit last year.
Forty four people were killed and 350,000 impacted when the category five cyclone, the strongest ever recorded in Fiji, swept across the country in February 2016.
Sita was one of at least 150 volunteers to help with Fiji Red Cross’ response. Although she escaped the full force of the cyclone, seeing the destruction Winston caused in other areas inspired her to volunteer.
“My family was safe so that’s why I wanted to be a volunteer – to help other people who weren’t so lucky,” she explains.
Sita worked as a data entry volunteer, collecting information from every Red Cross branch in the country and logging it so the data could be used to help those most in need.
During the initial response, there were some long days – Sita can remember taking a laptop home and working until 3am on one occasion – but it was good knowing she was doing something to help, she says.
“I’m very happy that I’m helping people. It’s better for you to help people than to sit at home and do nothing. Just because your family’s safe doesn’t mean you can relax.
“You think, whoa, it’s a hard job but you’re helping people who need it and you always smile.”
A year on from Cyclone Winston, Red Cross continues to work with the hardest-hit communities as they rebuild and recover.
Sita says she gained a lot from her Cyclone Winston experience. Being a Red Cross volunteer enabled her to help others, but it has also helped her.
“It has changed me. This was my first time being a volunteer. I have met a lot of people. I have learnt a lot too.”