Cyclone Pam: A Volunteer's Perspective

Nelly Iaukelo, 33, and her husband Gaetan have been volunteering with Vanuatu Red Cross for over 3 years. “I like the Red Cross because they help people in the community and I’m interested in their work. I enjoy going out to communities I haven’t been before,” she said.

When Cyclone Pam came, Nelly’s home in the town of Lenakel (West Tanna) collapsed. “I saw my house had fallen down and I felt very sad. I cried with my children because we were very sorry for our house.”

Nelly’s two aunties and grandmother lost their lives when the building in which they were sheltering collapsed. “Three of them died. Two straight after the cyclone and one later, because of her leg injury,” remarked Nelly. “The building wasn’t safe.”

Source: Edwina Yeates, Vanuatu Red Cross

Nevertheless, just 3 days after the cyclone, Nelly and Gaetan were back at the Red Cross branch in Tanna, ready to volunteer. They were part of the team who assessed the damage caused by Cyclone Pam and distributed essential relief items to affected communities. “After some training we went out into the community and delivered things like spades, hammers and nails,” Nelly said. “Some families there were finding it very hard to build back. The cyclone brought down every coconut, tree and house. It’s very hard.”

After distribution in the communities was complete, Gaetan, who is an architect and carpenter by trade, set to work rebuilding his family’s home. He used some of the tools provided by the Red Cross and techniques he had learnt from Red Cross’s ‘build back safer’ community workshop. “Now we have rebuilt a house that is very strong. I think we will be ready when the next cyclone comes,” Nelly said.

Thanks to a network of over 300 loyal volunteers such as Nelly and her husband, the Red Cross was able to supply communities in need with essential relief items within days of the Cyclone passing and will be there to help when the next disaster strikes.