Aid NGO unsure why cyclone appeal is going so slowly | Pacific Beat

Aid NGO unsure why cyclone appeal is going so slowly

Aid NGO unsure why cyclone appeal is going so slowly

Updated 11 January 2013, 17:40 AEDT

An Australian nongovernment organisation that sends aid to the Pacific is surprised its appeal for aid to help cyclone victims in Fiji and Samoa isn't going as well as expected.

Pacific Smiles director Sheree Rarasea says there may be a number of reasons for this, from the bushfire emergency here in Australia, to compassion fatigue from many charities raising funds at the time of year, and even wariness of scammers pretending to be charities.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Sheree Rarasea, director of the Australian NGO Pacific Smiles

RARASEA: Normally we ship and distribute backpacks filled with school essentials for the kids and we've only worked in Fiji previously, but this will be our first project in Samoa, yeah, and we also do maternity packs for expectant mums. A lot of the mums that go into hospital and give birth don't even have a change of clothes to take their babies home in. So we do maternity packs and we also encourage children in Australia to fill the backpacks and get involved in giving and just teaching them sharing and compassion. So that's what we normally do. But we've also this 2012, we did our flood appeal, where we shipped ten tonne of humanitarian supplies. Yeah, we're now in the process of collecting and we'll go over in February to distribute our Cyclone Evan appeal.

HILL: So what sort of things are you collecting specifically for the victims of Cyclone Evan? This is both in Samoa and in Fiji?

RARASEA: Yeah, both Samoa and Fiji. We are collecting non-perishable foods, linens, medical supplies, rehydration powder and tarps. There's still I mean a lot of people living under tarps that have got them, so we want to be able to at least give that for shelter, for people that are displaced still from that. Mosquito nets, mosquito repellents, water purifiers, and even kitchenware and things like that we're sending over.

HILL: So you're fundraising in Australia to get these things. What's the response been like?

RARASEA: Yeah, we are fundraising. We haven't had a huge response. We've raised about $1800 so far. I have sent a lot of freight, a load with Air Pacific already, so that goes by air freight, but we are yeah appealing for support financially to help us, because it is quite expensive to ship to Samoa as well and we have also been appealing for a sponsor to come on board and help us with our shipping, just a container to get it to Samoa, otherwise we'll be sending it via the cubic metre and then yeah, one of our team members will go on the ground and my husband and I will go on the ground in Fiji and assist with distributing.

HILL: It doesn't sound like there's been a massive response from Australia. Is that because we've got our own natural disasters here in Australia with the bushfires at the moment, do you think?

RARASEA: Oh, yeah I think so and before the bushfires, I guess in early December when this happened. I'm really unsure. It doesn't seem to be, even the flood appeal that I did earlier in the year in April, I had a huge response from that and yeah, it just hasn't. And I mean I can go on the internet and google and there's not a lot of information and reports coming out of Fiji and Samoa. You've really got to search around for those things. It's just not made really public. Once it's happened, everyone just moves on from it unfortunately.

HILL: There's that phrase that comes to mind Compassion for Tea. Once people have seen the initial disaster and made a donation to one fund, it sort of drops off peoples radar doesn't it?

RARASEA: It does, yeah. And there is a lot of appeals that go around which give fundraising a bad name and I even thought with these Tassie bushfires, there's appeals all over the internet, all over Facebook, but we are a registered charity and we want people to know that and this is why we registered. My husband and I registered for that purpose so that we know that the funds are getting there and we know the groups are getting this, which is why we distribute them ourselves. We don't send into the government. We actually have our hands on and do our own ....? assessments and everything.

HILL: I suppose to a certain extent, peoples need is actually greatest I mean immediately after the cyclone, but also the ongoing things that they need, that's just as important as the stuff in the weeks and months afterwards isn't it?

RARASEA: It is, yeah. Well, normally, they're doing it hard over in Fiji and Samoa and a lot of the Pacific Islands. Fiji's a third world country, so I mean they don't have a lot and yeah, we even when we ship our backpacks, we do ship food and things like that. Even in Nadi, in the capital, my mum was there recently and kids were coming up and asking her for food, so it's very real and if you don't go and see the locals, you won't know. If you go into the resorts, you don't see it, because obviously you're sheltered from that. But there is a lot of need and I just appeal to everybody to give back some hospitality like when they experience when they're in Fiji. The people are beautiful and they give such great service and hospitality and I'm trying to get people that travel there and the tourism industry to get behind them and support them.


Bruce Hill

Bruce Hill


Bruce is one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists with nearly 20 years covering the region and has won several international awards.

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