The winds have dropped but the struggle remains in Fiji post Cyclone Winston.

The damage is still apparent weeks after the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall hit the country in February.

Sandbags hold down sheets of iron that sit precariously atop houses that had their roofs blown off. Fresh water is hard to come by, as are building materials to fix the damaged homes and resorts.

And for some small villages, such as the tiny island settlement of Wayalailai, they just don't have the money or resources to fix their broken community.


When news spread of the cyclone that killed more than 40 people, Hastings Intermediate sprung into action.

Each year, principal Andrew Shortcliffe takes 20 prefects to the small island on Wayalailai to spend time with its sister school Namara.

There, they teach lessons, play sport and help educate their Fijian brothers and sisters.

The 250 islanders have become like family, so the school dug deep to do what it could to help.

A barbecue and mufti day kicked off an intensive fundraising drive. Clothes, medical supplies and money was donated by the Hastings school and business community.

Air New Zealand allowed the school to take 350kg of luggage over, free of charge, but it still wasn't enough to take all the donated goods. Mr Shortcliffe will take the rest of the donations later in the year when he takes the leadership academy to Wayalailai.

The community was very generous, Mr Shortcliffe said.

The five students who went on the trip were all former Hastings Intermediate Leadership Academy members, now Year 13 students at Hastings Boys', Hastings Girls', Woodford and Karamu high schools.

They had visited the island back in 2011, so knew of its charm. With no power or phone, and just one resort providing an income to the village, it is a close community where people rely on each other and the crops they grow.

There was a real "drudge" to day-to-day life when the Hawke's Bay group arrived. But they brought "gifts and positivity", Mr Shortcliffe said.

On their first day, they distributed two new school uniforms, stationery and sports gear to the students.

"You could just see the difference in the kids' faces," Mr Shortcliffe said.

With the help of the village elders, the group made up family packs of food and clothing for all 70 families in the village.

Once the donations were distributed, the group spent a lot of their time fixing what they could and passing on their skills to locals so they could carry on the work.

The biggest obstacle was finding good-quality building materials. There seemed to be a shortage, Mr Shortcliffe said.

The group got what they could and re-roofed some houses and part of the school dormitory. They also worked on a house belonging to one of the men currently working in the Hawke's Bay orchards.

He had not been home to see the destruction since the cyclone.

"He was very grateful," Mr Shortcliffe said, as was the whole village. "We brought energy and manpower, and we made a difference."

There were long days working in hot, humid conditions but the students coped really well, Mr Shortcliffe said.

Woodford House student Nikki Livingston said the Fiji trip was humbling and heart-warming.

"It opened my eyes to a different world away from home."

Kate Pearse of Hastings' Girls said it was an unforgettable experience. "I am so grateful to give back to those who have always given so much to us.

"The connections, memories and friendships that I made alongside the amazing relief work we completed are irreplaceable."

Mr Shortcliffe thanked the Hawke's Bay community for its support, as it really made a difference in improving conditions in the village.