NATION

Kiwi Navy Officer Hails Cheerful Cyclone Victims

‘It was almost like you wouldn’t think that a cyclone had just hit them because children were still smiling’ Despite the devastation and trauma left by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the
16 Mar 2016 11:00
Kiwi Navy Officer Hails Cheerful Cyclone Victims
Royal New Zealand Navy ,ASTD Erica Williams is part of the crew on board the HNMNZS Canterbury that is currently carrying out humanitarian relief assistance on the island of Vanuablavu in Lau . PHOTO: Arieta Vakasukawaqa

‘It was almost like you wouldn’t think that a cyclone had just hit them because children were still smiling’

Despite the devastation and trauma left by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the people on the island of Vanuabalavu continue to be cheerful, says Royal New Zealand Navy Able Steward Erica Williams.

“It was almost like you wouldn’t think that a cyclone had just hit them because children were still smiling and were still happy to greet us and welcome us in their community,” ASTD Williams said.

“There is nothing like it, I had never seen anything as cheerful as the Fijian people.”

The 26-year-old is part of the crew on board the HMNZS Canterbury currently deployed on the island of Vanuabalavu in Lau to carry out relief aid assistance.

As part of the relief assistance from her friends in New Zealand they also collected 14 boxes filled with food items, baby items, baby food, blankets, and sanitary items which she distributed at Lomaloma Hospital.

With teary eyes, ASTD Williams described her experience of the cyclone damage on Vanuabalavu.

“I travelled with the army around four different villages on Vanuabalavu to deliver concrete water storages and tarpaulins; they all have similar devastation by the cyclone and it was quite heart wrenching to see what was left after the cyclone,” she said.

ASTD Williams completed high school in 2007; she then joined the University of Auckland where she attained a degree then a Post Graduate Diploma in Dance Studies.

In 2011, she taught in Nabasovi Village School in Koro for six months where she taught dancing and English before joining the Royal New Zealand Navy able rating in 2013 equivalent to lance corporal in the army.

This is her fourth deployment on board the HMNZS Canterbury and her second humanitarian aid assistance operation on board the ship; the first was after Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu last year.

On board the ship, she is an officer’s steward who is responsible for the logistics any event involving dignitaries who come on board for lunch or any formal function.

“I did a degree in dance studies and also a post graduate diploma in dance studies at the University of Auckland; which is what took me to teaching in Nabosovi village in Koro,” said ASTD Williams.

“Then I wanted to do something that was a bit more out of the ordinary and something that will challenge me daily which I feel it does a lot of time and I also wanted to do something for my country.”

ASTD Williams said she was hoping that after TC Winston they would travel back to Koro; to render assistance and provide aid however the Australian HMAS Canberra was assigned to Koro.

“I have got in touch with the people I have ties with on the island and they have informed me that they are safe; from what I hear Nabasovi village

sustained a bit of damage, the school is still capable to run its normal routine but it’s just a matter of having it cleaned up,” she said.

“I was quite hoping of returning back to Fiji in the hopes that we would be also go to Koro Island, but it’s unfortunate that it’s under these circumstances.

“Nevertheless I am just grateful that we are able to get on the ground to see how much devastation caused by the cyclone and I am reminded of how positive and cheerful Fijian people are, in the midst of what happened in the cyclone.”

Edited by Rusiate Mataika

Feedback:  arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

 

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