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Te Puke kiwifruit workers help rebuild Vanuatu

Najariwelu School had classrooms completely destroyed by the tropical cyclone. But the Mill for Malo team delivered timber to the school this week to begin the rebuild of classrooms.

A Bay of Plenty charity is striving to help a cyclone-ravaged island in Vanuatu amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tropical Cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction across the Pacific in April.

Photos paint a grim reality for many islands and communities in Northern Vanuatu - some medical centres have been left in ruins and many have been left without food relying on aid packages.

Te Puke-based charity Fruit of the Pacific is working directly with kiwifruit seasonal workers from Vanuatu to deploy a sawmill to one of the affected northern islands: Malo. 

Fruit of the Pacific CEO Kylie Dellabarca Steel says it’s a challenging environment to deliver and distribute relief and rebuild aid.

Vanuatu currently has no reported cases of COVID-19. But Fruit of the Pacific has found a way to lend a hand from afar.

They are getting behind The Mill for Malo project.

This is led by an EastPack RSE worker, Joe Iautu, who has managed a sawmill programme for the last five years.

Kylie says this week, Joe and his team have been deployed by Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office to Malo to support their nation in a time of need.

The Mill for Malo team will be milling fallen timber and providing that free of charge to the communities so they can rebuild schools, kindergartens, medical clinics, churches and market places.

Te Puke-based companies Baygold and EastPack, as well as their RSE staff from Vanuatu, were quick to partner with the project.

“They have provided donations supporting the first three weeks of milling costs, a full repairs and maintenance kit as well as the reconnaissance trip for Joe to identify communities and rebuild projects,” says Kylie.

Another local school on the west coast of Malo ruined by Tropical Cyclone Harold last month.

The sawmill team will start off work this week for two local schools on the west coast of Malo.

One of those schools is Najariwelu School.  The classrooms were destroyed by the tropical cyclone, one of them being completely flattened.

But now the schools leadership team have plans to rebuild these two destroyed classrooms, three school auxiliary rooms and one teacher’s house.

Yesterday, the Mill for Malo team milled and delivered more than 280 lineal metres of wood to begin the rebuild of this school.

“During their time on Malo, the team hope to serve between five to ten communities and provide them with a much-needed rebuild resource,” says Kylie.

She says the swift support from the kiwifruit industry for this project highlights the incredible relationships built through the RSE scheme.

“They are strong and tangible community to community partnerships and there is a real commitment to supporting one another in times of crisis and disaster.”

Fruit of the Pacific are putting out a call for donations from the public, saying 100 per cent of funds raised will cover operational and travel costs of the sawmill team.

Donations will help make the milling and provision of timber completely free for affected communities, says Kylie.

To donate, visit their Givealittle.

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