Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold made landfall in Vanuatu, decimating homes, gardens, and anything else in its path.
Shelley and her son were with neighbours, all sheltering in one place together. The community worked together to keep everyone safe as the cyclone raged on. Children hid under beds, the women were nearby to care for them, while the men held tightly onto tin sheets and parts of the house to hold it together.
But the power of the winds were too strong. Shelley tells us ‘their bodies were being lifted off the ground trying to secure the metal roofing. The men’s hands soon became sore and cut.” They could not hold on any longer. Once the metal roofing was gone it was not long before the house they had all taken shelter in began to disintegrate into debris around them.
Fortunately, one of the young men noticed that Shelley’s kitchen was still intact, so the group decided to relocate. Shelley and her community stood shoulder to shoulder in her kitchen as the cyclone raged on around them
A flying piece of tin roof from another home smashed a hole into one of Shelley’s walls. Earlier in the day Shelley had reinforced the roofing and the beams of her kitchen but as the storm pounded around them, the adults had to work together to hold down the shelter. “We held tightly for hours” she tells us.
“The wind was strong. I said ‘all of you hold on tight, the wind should not beat us. There is only one pace to hide, every house has fallen down already'”
Every adult that was not holding a child was holding on to the house.
In the morning, we opened the door, it was devastating. We came outside but you couldn’t see any houses. Pieces of debris lay scattered everywhere.”
During and after the cyclone the cooperation of communities like Shelley’s ensure the safety and survival of people across the island.
“The houses that are outside now, we have just rebuilt them. Working together was the key ingredient ensuring the safety and security of Hotwota Community, with collaborative working starting directly the morning after the cyclone.
One day we rebuild the house of one person, the next day we will work on the house of another.”
The women worked on the gardens, salvaging whatever they could from the storm and cooking meals for everyone, while the men worked on the new houses.
Shelley sings praise for the donated tarpaulins they received thanks to you. “When the tarpaulins came, we just put them over the top, it made life easier for us because we only had broken roofs from the cyclone.” She says her family now has a dry nights sleep, free from water leaking through gaps in the broken roofing.
Shelley and her community also received tool kits thanks to your generosity.
“Because you gave the spades, shovels, all those things, it means we were able to rebuild our houses, and now the houses are finished we can go work in our gardens.”
Approximately 70% of Vanuatu’s population work as farmers, whose life and livelihood depends on their garden produce. These tools are helping families and communities rebuild their livelihoods faster after the cyclone devastated their land.
“You made our lives easier. Now if I need something I can go and get it. Even some things that I did not have before, I now have access to because you came.”