SeaMercy: amazing people helping remote villages after the Cyclone Winston's disastrous passage

Take Off
Jörgen Wennberg
Sun 12 Jun 2016 21:55
Already in Raiatea we asked the World ARC if we could contribute with some help once arriving in Fiji considering the Cyclone Winston’s disastrous passage. We had hear of the cyclone passing by when we were in the Galapagos. In Tonga, the Wolrd ARC, announced that they have some connection to SeaMercy, a volunteering organisation started by private people. The purpose is to gather yachts (sailing as motor boats) to help in the South Pacific where ever help is needed. Last year they were very active in Vanuatu when the cyclone Pam hit the island. We met this guy Jonathan (missed to take a picture of him) Robinson from England who is the coordinator for SeaMercy in Vanua Balavu. He was in New Zealand with his catamaran when the cyclone hit Vanua Balavu. The time it took him to sail the boat up North and start gathering sailing boats around him he came to Vanua Balavu mid-May (3 months after the cyclone’s passage). He has managed to gather 50 skippers all spread out in Fiji. Here in Vanua Balavu there were about 10 SeaMercy sailing boats (families, couples, lonely sailor), all sailing privately around the world, around Fiji, only the Pacific, etc… all working hard for a few weeks to help 13 remote villages they had spotted on Vanua Balavu. 

It took a week for the first help to reach Lomaloma, the town of Vanua Balavu. It was the Naval Army of New Zealand. They build a new police station by the wharf and other major buildings. However the remote villages on the rest of Vanua Balavu had until today (4 months later) only received tents and some food supplies. 

SeaMercy chose to work systematically going through these villages: water supply, shelters, gardens to rebuild, etc…

This day SeaMercy had come to Lomaloma, after having worked North of Vanua Balavu, as they knew the World ARC would be coming in. Unfortunately due to the bad weather we were only 4 boats contributing. We did as much as we could and we all emptied our boats: food, cans, ropes, kitchen stuff, frying pans, kettle, clothes, torches, towels, etc…..To explain what to give away Jonathan said “Just raise the boat’s water line. Anything is of help”. Before leaving Tonga we had also bought extra pasta, soap, tooth brush/paste, etc…

We managed to fill 5 big bags of everything! Everything was gathered to the French motor catamaran “Domino” where the ladies from the SeaMercy yachts collected everything and worked frenetically in sorting everything out!


We dinghied away twice to empty everything on Domino.



We asked Jonathan what more we could do from the World ARC? He needed strong guys to dig gardens and he wanted our kids too….When the helping white people came to a village, even though the village people needed help, they felt overwhelmed by so many white people coming at the same time. Jonathan realised that when he had families helping, the kids were playing with the kids of the village, which was tension releasing and the work could be done more efficiently. Many people are still quite traumatised by what happened. The chiefs being gone from their villages and the men too leaving the women doing the men’s job, that is fishing, however with no fishing boats, this has left villages without a leader and somewhat disorientated village people having to change roles to survive.

This day Jonathan wanted Alex and Inez to attend a school and tell the kids the wind can be good too, it has helped Alex and Inez to come all the way from Sweden to Fiji….

The school Jonathan wanted Alex and Inez to visit was Josh's school in Mualevu, Alex friend, Lie’s son ;-)! 

The picture to the left is one of the school’s building. The picture to the right is a new building rebuilt by the New Zealand naval army.


Lotti the headmaster (sitting in the back on the picture to the left) welcomed us warmly. All the girls are sitting on the left hand side and all the boys on the right hand side. Before we left Alex and Inez for the morning at the school the class sang a song for us…. oh my so beautiful! Crystal clear voices touching us deeply. 


Just as we were to leave the school, the marina had called the police officer Lie having his office just by the school asking us to move Take Off as the shipping boat need to have space when leaving the wharf. Take Off was in the way. So we managed to get a lift back to the wharf (cars are not that common, probably 2 in a hour passing that road), moved Take Off, saw how they still unloaded the boat from diesel, goods and so on… And then Ben was passing by giving us a ride back to the school.


While Alex and Inez were having sports at school, picture to the left…


… we walked around the school and continued to be seized by the magnitude the cyclone had take the buildings.



Some buildings the walls were still standing so the tents serves now as roofs to protect from the sun.


Alex and Inez walking back to the classroom together with their new friends ...


… showing the teacher what things they had given away from the boat. 


For lunch brake the smaller ones went home ... 


… while the bigger ones had lunch at school.


This was time for us too to say goodbye. Alex and Inez had brought with them drawings. We had a little chat with the headmaster Lotti, a very friendly and curious man, who knew pretty much about Sweden (like the name of our King!) and did some research for tomorrow’s geography lesson teaching his pupils about Sweden.

The goodbyes never ended ...



The next stop was to fetch the garden diggers. Sam and Ben from Wishanger and Matthew from Paradise Found had been helping SeaMercy digging all morning in the village next to Mualevu where they had 5 casualties.


The cyclone had taken all gardens too and SeaMercy’s job is to help the village people with the first job and the courage to keep it going. They have had a few challenges on the way since the cyclone. They rebuild the garden however after 3 weeks the tropical storm Zena took the garden again. And then they rebuilt it again, however the garden was now submerged with caterpillars! Vanua Balavu has never had any caterpillars. The village people can only guess that either the cyclone brought them or the birds had to flee leaving freedom for the caterpillars to destroy the gardens. SeaMercy’s job is not only to help rebuild, but also teach them how to use anit-pesticide in the natural way: garlic, strong pepper, etc...


Now we could see that some carrots had started to grow.