Church Members in Fiji Provide Humanitarian Aid to Flood Victims
By Lok Yi Chan, Church News and Events
Three stakes in the Suva, Fiji, area recently held a drive to collect food, household items, and school supplies for flood victims in northern and western Fiji.
Elder Taniela Wakolo, Area Seventy and the Church’s Fiji Service Centre manager, initiated the drive on February 6, shortly after local Church leaders were alerted about the flood. Members collected food, clothing, bedding, kitchenware, and school supplies.
Fiji was hit by continuous heavy rainfall more than three weeks ago, causing widespread flooding and localized landslides in the western and northern areas. Flooding has lead to the deaths of eight people and has forced thousands to evacuate their homes.
According to Phillip Murphy Maiava, area welfare administrative assistant in the Pacific Area, all missionaries and Church members are safe.
The Fiji government declared a 15-day state of natural disaster on January 26 in the western part of the main island, Viti Levu. The floods have damaged public infrastructure, including bridges and roads, as well as crops, affecting many people’s livelihoods.
As the flood raged through the western and northern regions of Fiji, local Church leaders immediately opened up meetinghouses as evacuation centers for people whose homes were in the path of the flood. At one time 72 people were staying at the Nawaka chapel, more than half of whom were members of other faiths from the community. One member family stayed at the Nadi chapel. The Church provided food for the evacuees and used fast offering funds to assist the people as needed. The drive by the local stakes collected many necessary daily supplies.
“We thank the three stake presidents for agreeing to have this drive,” said Elder Wakolo in an e-mail to local Church leaders, “and our thoughts and prayers are with you and the affected members.”
According to Jackson Yee, country welfare manager for the Church in Fiji, Church members of all ages gathered in Sambula Stake center on Monday, January 6, to sort and bag the items that were collected for the flood victims. Local Church leaders then made arrangements to allocate the donations to the people in need.
Ropate Maiwiriwiri, president of the Lautoka Fiji Stake, said local stakes are now engaged mainly in basic food purchase and distribution. The Lautoka Fiji Stake and Taveuni Fiji District are continuing to administer fast offering funds to provide food and other assistance to Church members.
Many members of the community have commented on the Church’s quick response to the disaster and its efforts to provide relief.
“I hope that this experience will cause a stir in some of them to inquire about our faith,” said President Maiwiriwiri.