2012: Floods – Extending a helping hand

While it is disappointing to hear that most of our donated laptops, robotic kits, and possibly half of the library books went under water and therefore will have to be dumped, hearing the stories of what some of the others went through in the village makes this loss almost insignificant. If you live in an area which has never flooded, how do you prepare for such an event? As the flood waters rose, many seem to have just escaped with only the clothes on their backs. I used Facebook to interact with my friends in the Fiji Project Group. This is the first time I used social media this way.  While I learnt about the floods from contributors in other Facebook communities, I was also able to convey the message about the flood to friends on my page and the Fiji Project group.  It also showed me the power of social media. Some of the photos in this blog were uploaded by people who live in the village. Pictures speak a thousand words – without these my understanding of the floods would have been confined to how I interpreted the spoken text! Of great interest to me is how my conversation on the Fiji Project page evolved over the first few days.

Through this Facebook conversation and a few phone calls we now have a small support group which has donated money towards helping the flood affected children (180+) at this school. Through these funds and the support of the local community, we have been able to provide the children with home cooked hot lunches. We also intend to support them with their other basic school needs. If enough money comes in we may be able to replace some of the damaged library books.

Here are some excerpts of the conversation on Facebook. Many of the photos were taken after the flood waters had started to recede.

Naidovi Primary School

This was my entry on March 30 at 8.28pm

Floods hit Fiji again but this time it is in the area where our school project is. The school is in the village of Cuvu – about 45 minutes from Nadi Airport. For the many years I lived in Cuvu – there has never been a flood in my area and the school. But early this morning there was a flash flood. I spoke to the teachers earlier – many classrooms and residences have flood waters in them. The books, laptops and robotic kits which we donated have been damaged by the flood waters which rose very quickly. Today the Education Minister was suppose to have visited the school to see our work and how the robots worked. This news is disappointing but hey this is life.


Naidovi Primary School

This was my entry on April 3 at 11.49am

I just spoke to the Head Master at the school. The situation in the school and surrounding areas is quite grave and challenging. His description of the floods and how it hit the area was almost like a scene from a movie. In the early hours of Friday morning, people were running towards the school with flood waters following them. They ran to the high school because this was the only place in the area with buildings that had a second floor. For some the clothes on their backs were the only possessions left. People in the village have been supporting each other with food, clothes and shelter. But they are now reaching a desperate situation – they need help from outside. There is no water supply or electricity. It is still raining, so they cannot rely on wood burning open stoves. While schools will remain closed for the rest of the week – the Head Master was saying that he would like to provide meals for those children whose families are in a difficult situation. I have told the Head Master that I will either provide him with money or setup an account at a shop from where he can get the supplies to cook for the children. In this way we are supporting him and the students at the school. At least they will get something to eat and have water to drink. More importantly, I will be putting money in a place where I know it will reach the affected people quickly. 

Force of the rising waters

This was my entry on April 6 at 4.37pm

We have made an arrangement with one of the stores in the area to supply cooking ingredients to the school. The school headmaster will take charge of the cooking. When I spoke to him earlier today – he believes that almost half the students at the school (about 200) have been seriously affected. Till this morning – there was no assistance (rations etc) from anywhere. When the children return to school on Tuesday, at least the parents will have one less worry about giving them lunch. Families of two of our relatives and us have setup this up with an initial pledge of $FJD 1,000 and we will see how far this will go. So our primary objective is to focus on children at this school. From here on we will keep working with the headmaster. Thanks to Alison, Scott for your offer of help. Others have also indicated that they would like to help – thanks for the offer. If you would like to assist (every small bit counts), please let me know and I will give you the bank account details.

The school yard

This was my entry on April 8 at 12.04pm

This album on Facebook was uploaded by one of the locals who lives near the school. Most of the photos were taken once the flood waters started to recede. It is interesting that despite the adversity, some people were still able to smile for the camera.

The backyard of a house in the neighbourhood

This was my entry on April 9 at 10.50am

I had an email from Sashi  – the Headteacher at Naidovi Primary School. He has made contact with the shop in town to draw the groceries. Children will be provided with lunch hopefully from tomorrow when they return to school. I have kept him updated of the support that our small group (some are not on Facebook) is giving to give him and his students. In his email he wrote “You have grown in Cuvu and you know the geographic location of Cuvu (the village where the school is) , it has been flooded…no one ever thought Cuvu will be flooded including Sadhu (he has lived in the village for about 75 years). Every one in Cuvu was caught off guard. The street in Cuvu became the river as flood waters gave no time to anyone to pack anything. Cuvu is a disaster zone but your thoughts and prayers are with us…your timely help to assist the students with lunch is highly appreciated”. I started creating a website for the school last year – it is a work in progress. Other things came in the way – like teaching but here is a link which shows the location of the school…http://naidoviprimaryschool.org/?page_id=51

Another view of the school grounds

This was my entry on April 10 at 1.15pm

I have spoken to Sashi at Naidovi. The students have returned to school today. They have identified 180 children who need help as a result of the floods. Cooking for these children will get underway tomorrow. Another priority for the children is books that they have lost. The head teacher estimates that it will cost about $FJD9.00 per child to have the books replaced. These books are exercise books and some basic texts. But he is also trying to get support from other agencies.

The road in front of the school

Sashi – the Head Teacher Naidovi joined us on Facebook.On April 10 at 6.17pm he wrote:

Thanks for the support you have rendered. At times such as this when there is darkness around. Your words of encouragements gives us renewed hope to continue living here at Naidovi to provide the best for the children who are affected and those who become part of Naidovi. All necessary shopping has been done at shop to save in Sigatoka and other preparations are underway to provide lunch to the affected students tomorrow.

Naidovi community has woken up to the realities and magnitude of the disaster. Many students have come to school without school uniforms or bags as they have been washed away. Dear doc and friends, your support is like divine blessings for the students of the Naidovi Indian School. Kindergarten is closed for yet another week as we are trying to stabilize the primary school. The damage in the Kindergarten is mammoth therefore it may take a few more days.

The ministry of education officials are also carrying out their survey to see if any assistance can be provided. Many western schools are in the same situation. Once again many thanks on behalf of everyone here at Naidovi.

A view of the school

Sashi’s participation in the group kept all those in the group who were interested about the development information. His next update was on April 11at 5.34pm.

Today being the second day of school after the floods. With your help we were able to organise free lunch for the flood affected students. Number of students coming back to school is increasing. Today we had 70 percent attendance and expect others to come soon. Some students do not want to come to school because they have lost their uniform but we are asking them to come in any clothing to attend classes.

Today we had high level govt officials coming in for assessment including the Principal Education Officer – Nadroga /Navosa. I have informed them of the mammoth assistance by our friends overseas initiated by Doctor Chandra where our children have been provided free lunch.

Please find a link attached with the photos which show lunch for students under your assistance for day one. This… will continue until funds are available. Many thanks.


My former residence

Sashi’s feedback on April 13 was as follows:

Today was the third day for flood affected children to enjoy free lunch provided by you all. The number coming back to school after the floods is increasing today we had 77% returning to school. Today we provided vegetarian food to everyone. Friends, the whole community is thanking you all for this mighty gesture as other organizations are coming in to help the community the people are slowly getting back on their feet. Food rations are slowly coming in as the outside communities and organizations come to know about the suffering of the people here in Cuvu.

A total of 94 students are without school uniforms this includes both girls and boys. Satya Sai organizations local branch is now preparing to help some students,this will known to me on Monday. Students are asked to come to school in any type of clothing as long as they are in school to continue their education. The damage is so severe that this will take some time to heal. The contribution by our Facebook friends and specially initiated by you together with the wonderful families is now being talked about at all levels.

The spread of diseases (water borne,air borne) is likely to increase as authorities are trying to control it. Today we had two deaths here in Cuvu…both are predicted to be related o leptospirosis and funerals are being arranged. Cuvu is a densely populated area therefore every effort is made to protect the people specially the children.

Once again accept our appreciation for your kind gesture. The weather is now changing and expect better days ahead. God bless each and everyone of you.

100% for creativity!

I added the following on April 17:

I had a chat with the Head Master at Naidovi and one of the members of the community earlier today. The situation in the village is quite bad – there is a suspected outbreak of leptospirosis . Two people have already died. Quite a number are in hospital including teachers and education officers.
A big thank you to my friends and relatives (Facebookers and non-Facebookers) who have donated to support this community. Through our collective efforts 200 children are getting lunch everyday. The cost to feed these children on a daily basis is about $FJD 200 (about $A120). Thanks to Nirmala, Gyan, Rose, Shainiel, Alison, Scott, Sally, Sat, Maryam, Graeme, Nilima, Krishna, Pat and my mum for your donations and to others who have made a pledge. Every bit counts. We all seem to live in the same world – yet the where we live and what we have seems to be so different. Together we can make a difference.

Mr and Mrs Taylor – teachers at the Naidovi Primary added the following on April 19:

The daily distribution of hot meals to the students continue because of the kind gesture by Mr Chandra and friends.Being a teacher at the school and seeing the smile on their faces while serving their hot meals makes me feel how fortunate we are to have people like you who have gone out of your way to donate and help these children.I know the children look forward to their lunch each day and Im sure the teachers look forward to serving them as well.Attendance is improving which is a good sign and classes continue as normal.All care and safety measures are taken to see that the children are free of any likely sickness esp.after the flood.There has been a suspected outbreak of leptospirosis and we only hope and pray that none of the students are infected.Our holidays have been shortened by a week as a result of the recent flood so that we can catch up with the teaching hours we have lost and with two more weeks remaining this term,we hope all the children will attend school to catch up with lessons.I’m positive things will normalise soon and all it takes is time!!We need to be patient and pray that things will work out for the best!

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