Fiji, for many of us, is a far away land of idyllic beaches, abundant beauty and flourishing rain forest. The perfect vacation spot. But for the villagers of Delakado, Fiji is home. The village consists of about 300 people. A blissful life where community spirit runs deep, where each and every home is open to all who pass through, where even the preparation of daily meals becomes a collective effort and a veritable feast.
The rumors of Cyclone Winston were rife for the Fijians. But nothing could have prepared them for the staggering force of the winds that came howling through on February 20, 2016. Delakado, Tailevu, lay nearly in the path of the eye of the storm a blistering whirlwind of flying debris as everything around its people was swept up in its wake. Too weak to withstand the power of a category 5 cyclone, infrastructures entirely collapsed as homes came crumbling down. All but one.
The entire village somehow managed to hide under the floorboards of one particular house. Although owned by one individual, it was actually used for village gathering events. Thus, it was built with a higher standard. As a last hope from the powerful Winston, the women, children, and elderly huddled together under the floorboards of the house. The strongest stood above and with all their might, held the walls up to thrust outward against the storm whilst the brunt of the wind tore the rest of the village down. They held up the walls until the storm subsided. Amazingly, no one was killed. It was a miraculous community effort that will pave the way for what comes next, as they pick up what little remains of their village and start over.
When our response team arrived on the scene, it didn’t take long to note the incredible local capacity in Delakado. And more importantly, the unshakable philosophy of a community determined to stand on its own two feet and rebuild itself in the face of adversity. A pre-existing spirit of volunteerism, or as local Fijians so accurately describe it, “community comes first, the individual second”.
In Fiji, any tension or disaster can be alleviated by a collaboration supported by extensive connectedness. In fact, this is the very same credo that fuels the members of All Hands Volunteers. A steadfast belief in the power of community an extended family unit of sorts that allows no one to go unloved, unnoticed or uncared for.
As so vividly described by staff member, Gary Pitts, who stated, “The community have really come out to support the teams in the field. We have been welcomed with open arms.. we have seen volunteers from all parts of the social structure in the village, including the Village Headman who has worked right along our side”.
No matter how much rubble and debris there is; or how shattered, torn, and dusty the task; the people of Delakado believe anything can be rebuilt if we’re all working together. This belief kept them alive as they huddled under one roof together amidst the cyclone and is,certainly, a belief that we’ve found is worth carrying out forever–thanks to the people of Delakado.