Cyclone Pam One Year Anniversary - Sabrina Wako, West Tanna

Published: 7 March 2016 9:29 CET

Like most people in the village of Tennis, 25-year-old Sabrina Wako received plenty of warning that Cyclone Pam was coming. Yet based on her previous experiences with cyclones, she underestimated just how damaging it would be. “We heard about the cyclone and I thought it was a small one,” the mother of three said.

Lack of preparation left Sabrina without a kitchen, a roof on her house or a garden. She was one of the lucky ones. “It was the biggest cyclone I have ever experienced. The kids were crying and I thought that maybe this was the end of my life,” she recalled. “When we came out, everything was gone.”

Sabrina felt even more sad for her mother, who had just finished building a new kitchen before the cyclone made landfall. “She built it with her own two hands and had used it for only two or three months before the cyclone struck. Now it’s all gone, and she’s devastated by it.”

Despite the damage the cyclone caused her family, Sabrina was quick to lend a hand as a Red Cross volunteer. “I learned plenty of new skills, even life-saving ones which will allow me to help someone when there is a problem. I like being a volunteer for the Red Cross. When we have natural disasters they are always there to help us.”

Sabrina’s husband is also a volunteer. Together they helped with the distribution of essential relief items in North Tanna. “People there were very happy to receive these items from the Red Cross. We’ve helped plenty of them out there. It’s a good thing.”

Sabrina and her husband also benefitted from the relief items. “I’m very happy because I now have tools to replant my garden and a shelter toolkit to help me repair my home.”

The gardens proved difficult to regrow. Life has become harder because of this. “I tried my best to replant my garden, but the crops were not really good. I must try my best because of El Niño,” she said.

As a silver lining, Sabrina and many communities nation-wide have learned a lot from Cyclone Pam. “I know that if another cyclone comes, the community will be 100% ready,” Sabrina concluded.  

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.