Cyclone Pam One Year Anniversary - Nelly Iaukelo, Vanuatu

Published: 7 March 2016 8:54 CET

Nelly Iaukelo, 33, and her husband Gaetan have been volunteering with Vanuatu Red Cross for over 3 years. “I like Red Cross because they help people in the community and I’m interested in their work. I enjoy going out to communities I haven’t been before”.

When Cyclone Pam came, Nelly’s home in the town of Lenakel, West Tanna, collapsed. “I saw my house had fallen down and I felt very very sad and I cried with my children because we were very sorry for our house”.  Nelly was just one of 66,000 people who were left homeless after Cyclone Pam with Tanna being one of the worst affected islands during Cyclone Pam.

This loss was compounded by news that Nelly’s grandmother and two aunties had lost their lives when the building in which they were sheltering collapsed. “Three of them died. Two straight after the cyclone and one later, because of her leg injury,” remarked Nelly. “The building wasn’t safe, “she said.

Nevertheless, just three days after the cyclone, Nelly and Gaetan were back at their local Red Cross branch, ready to volunteer. They were part of the team who assessed the damage caused by Cyclone Pam and distributed essential relief items to affected communities.

“After some training we went out into the community and delivered things like spades, hammers and nails” Nelly said. “Some families there were finding it very hard to build back. The cyclone brought down every coconut, leaf and house. It’s very hard”. Red Cross provided 28,160 people in Vanuatu with relief shelter materials such as tarpaulins and 25,760 people with shelter toolkits, enabling them to do basic repairs on their homes or to build their own basic emergency shelter

After distribution in the communities was complete, Gaetan, an architect and carpenter by trade, set to work rebuilding his family’s home. He used some of the tools provided by Red Cross and techniques he’d learnt from their ‘Build Back Safer’ safe shelter awareness workshops.

The aim of these workshops is to build off existing knowledge and best traditional and modern construction practices in communities, in order to equip families with some technical knowhow required to build strong, safe houses.  “Now we have rebuilt a house that is very strong. I think next cyclone to come, we will be ready enough” says Nelly.

With thanks to a network of over 300 loyal volunteers such as Nelly and her husband, Red Cross was able to supply communities in need with essential relief items within days of the Cyclone passing and will be there to help when the next disaster strikes.

The relief items distributed in Vanuatu were jointly supplied by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)), French Red Cross, Australian Red Cross and the Australian Government as part of the overall Red Cross response following Cyclone Pam.