Habitat-built home a solid refuge in Cyclone Winston

Feb 25, 2016

25 February 2016

One Fijian family was able to shelter others from their village in their Habitat for Humanity-built home during Cyclone Winston – as it was built to be resistant to the force of tropical storms.

Habitat for Humanity chief executive Claire Szabo said the charity’s disaster response staff had checked on Taito and his family in the cyclone’s aftermath.

“Sadly, while other houses in the area were severely damaged, Taito’s home was still standing and his family and others in the community were safe after seeking shelter in the Habitat-built home. I understand they huddled together in their home and waited out the storm.”

“Through our work in the Pacific, we focus on building cyclone-resistant housing, alongside families. This is the case whether we are building because of existing need, rebuilding or repairing following an unfortunate disaster such as Cyclone Winston in Fiji.”

“We really need the continued support of Kiwis who are donating to help Habitat’s work in Fiji right now – more than 500 homes have been destroyed or damaged, and tens of thousands of people are displaced,” Ms Szabo said.

Taito and his family formed a partnership with the charity last year, and welcomed a team of 17 student volunteers to help build the home, as part of a Habitat for Humanity’s programme.

Ms Szabo said the extended family had previously lived in a makeshift tarpaulin house with his wife, and this was typical for many “informal settlements” in Fiji.

“Like many homes in Fiji, Taito’s home was not structurally safe to withstand strong winds. During heavy rains, water would come through the roof and walls and flood their house.”

At the time of building his home, Taito said having a house meant everything to him and his family.

“A house that will not let in water is a safe shelter for happiness and hope and it is a dream come true,” he said.

“A family home will be a very precious place where my children will grow up healthier. My children will be able to do their homework and feel proud. Having a house away from the wind and rain to live in will mean we can all smile knowing we will be safe.”

Ms Szabo said Habitat disaster response specialists were working with local staff to assess damage and respond to the immediate shelter needs of Fijian families.

“Responding with shelter solutions in a disaster is, unfortunately, not unfamiliar territory for us,” Ms Szabo said.

“But we really need the support of Kiwis to help make this happen – many have already chosen to support Habitat, as they know we’re there, in Fiji now, taking action.”

People can donate to the Habitat for Humanity New Zealand disaster response fund at www.habitat.org.nz/donate or at any ReStore charity shop around the country.