A Te Puke-based charity has joined forces with local seasonable kiwifruit workers from Vanuatu and the Bay horticultural industry to help rebuild a cyclone-ravaged island.
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Last month Tropical Cyclone Harold caused widespread damage across the Pacific including many islands and communities in northern Vanuatu.
Fruits of the Pacific chief executive officer Kylie DellaBarca Steel said the charity was working with kiwifruit seasonal workers from Vanuatu on The Mill for Malo -RSE Rebuild Project to help Malo, one of affected islands.
She said Malo "bore the brunt" of the cyclone," with homes destroyed and medical centres and schools left in ruins.
Steel said many residents would be relying on food and other aid packages for months.
"This significant rebuild project is supported by the local horticultural industry, both by employers and their Ni Vanuatu seasonal staff."
A Fruit of the Pacific charitable trust was mentoring a Vanuatu sawmill team on the island of Tanna, who was able to respond with practical help.
The Mill for Malo project is led by EastPack RSE worker Joe Iautu, who has managed a sawmill programme for the past five years.
In 2015/2016 his team gave more than 20 RSE communities on Tanna rebuild support after Cyclone Pam hit the island through the Fruit of the Pacific's Tanna programme.
Steel said the team would be on Malo for about 10 weeks and they were due to start work this week for Najarewelu and Avantari Schools on the west coast of Malo.
The team had so far milled and delivered more than 280 lineal metres of timber to begin the rebuild of Najarwelu School.
With the help of the timber, the school's leadership team have plans to rebuild the two destroyed classrooms, three auxiliary rooms and a teacher's house.
The Mill for Malo team will be milling fallen timber and providing that free of charge to affected communities so they can rebuild schools, kindergartens, medical clinics, churches, or market places.
To be able to freely deliver this service in Malo, the RSE community in Te Puke and around New Zealand have swung in behind the project.
Te Puke-based companies Baygold and EastPack, as well as their RSE staff from Vanuatu, have been quick to partner with the project, Steel said.
She said their donations supported the first 3 weeks of milling costs, a full repairs and maintenance kit as well as the reconnaissance trip to identify what was needed.
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers and Horticulture New Zealand were also promoting the rebuild project across their network of contacts.
"The swift support from the kiwifruit industry for this project shows a real commitment to supporting one another in times of crisis and disaster," Steel said.
A Givealittle page has been set up to help cover the sawmill team's operational and travel costs while corporate donations can also be made to the charity's bank account.