A container filled with sensible supplies and a little bit of heart is on its way to Vanuatu.
The Victoria Vanuatu Physician Project (ViVa), in conjunction with Disaster Aid Canada and the Compassionate Resource Warehouse packed a shipping container to the brim with much-needed disaster relief – construction, medical, school, recreation and skill development supplies for the nation made up of 80 islands in the South Pacific in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam.
“It’s been really wonderful and ViVa feels very fortunate,” said ViVa spokesman Dr. Jeff Unger.
The Victoria emergency room physician and his family spent seven months living on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu while Unger worked as a volunteer physician as part of ViVa. The Victoria-Vanuatu Physician Project is a small, grassroots, not-for-profit organization that supplies a physician to staff the 40-bed Lenakel Hospital on Tanna. Over its 24 years more than 40 Greater Victoria physicians and their families have made the trip.
The Ungers returned to their Oak Bay home shortly before the devastating cyclone brought winds reaching 320 km/h, spreading devastation across 22 islands in the archipelago and impacting 188,000 people, 60,000 of them school-age children.
“Obviously this has touched a chord with some people and we’re committed mid to long term to really help rebuild there as some organizations that have been active there are pulling away now,” Unger said.
ViVa will continue its partnership with an Australian team through Rotary International.
“We’ve done work with them for hospital maintenance the last 15 years. We know how they work and they do great work and the funds will go directly to what’s needed,” Unger said.
Funds will come from some ViVa already holds, private donations, and some they will continue to raise in what they see right now as a three- to five-year plan.
The first container that left Victoria May 9, was filled with post-disaster supplies such as tents that will house 10 people, water purification means, tarps and tools, things needed in the immediate sense.
“It was just something that we thought would be tangible and effective and really worthwhile within a few weeks of the disaster occurring,” Unger said. “One of the things we realized after this is disaster preparedness is not something that’s a reality there.”
ViVa purchased the container which will stay onsite at the hospital and serve as a safe storage facility for future disaster supplies.
A load of soccer balls and pumps offered by Spank It Sports and two sets of jerseys donated by Victoria soccer clubs offer a bit of spirit lifting beyond housing and fresh water.
“We are really thankful for the response people have had. People have been really generous here in Victoria… and across Canada,” Unger said, adding ViVa has raised over $50,000 and will continue to co-ordinate ongoing efforts with other local organizations.