Ni-Vanuatu are an optimistic bunch, even in the wake of Cyclone Pam, one of the biggest natural disasters to have struck the South Pacific archipelago.
Despite their resilience though, our neighbours need our help.
Deputy National Secretary Mick Doleman recently visited the capital Port Vila to meet comrades from Vanuatu Trade Union Congress to find out where best to direct relief funds.
Head of Vanuatu National Worker’s Union Ephraim Kalsakau was pretty clear that money was urgently required to help workers rebuild their homes in order to help them get their lives back on track.
Vice President of VNWU, Crimson, described how frightening the ordeal had been when the cyclone struck.
While there, Doleman met up with an APHEDA representative, Kate Hepworth, who had been on the ground for more than a week.
Although it was almost a month since Pam had struck, the devastation of what had occurred was still apparent even in Port Vila - one of the more developed areas.
A quick tour of the settlements showed uprooted trees, houses without roofs, flood damaged roads and piles of debris awaiting clearing.
“Australia has a historically close relationship with its Pacific Island neighbours, including Vanuatu, so we have an obligation to help them out in times of need,” Doleman said.
“A Category Five Cyclone would have been devastating should it have made landfall in Australia, never mind a developing island nation such as Vanuatu – where most houses are little more than tin shacks.”
“The Ni-Van are workers and that was apparent in how much had already been achieved in the past month. Clean-up is well underway but there is still a hole in terms of funding to help these people rebuild and continue to grow.”
“I urge my MUA brothers and sisters to think about putting their hands in their pockets to help facilitate recovery for our friends and comrades in the region.”
The appeal is part of the Maritime International Federation initiative of which the MUA is a part along with Maritime Union of New Zealand, Papua New Guinea Maritime and Transport Workers’ Union.
Other unions such as Indonesia’s KPI and Timor Leste’s SMETL have also expressed an interest in joining.
Doleman said he hoped in the future that invitation could be spread to other unions in the Pacific, including Vanuatu.
Donations can be made here:
Account number 4626 (S5) for internal transfer
Name: MUA Vanuatu Relief Fund