Yesterday was the annual Pako Festa, a huge ethnic festival in Geelong, Australia and for many years our Fiji Geelong Friendship Club has contributed by participating in the march, performing dance and singing, running a stall, displaying crafts etc. But we intended to have a rest this year. However because of the Hurricane Winston last weekend some members of our Fiji group met on Wednesday and decided we needed a presence at the festival, found costumes, made a banner, designed a new logo, printed posters, made 500 flyers, got in touch with the Pako leaders to get permission to fund-raise with tins, and we were accepted. On Saturday one community radio station broadcast from Pako Festa and George was interviewed so that gave more publicity to our fund-raising. We are also collecting labelled boxes to send to a group in Melbourne who are preparing two containers for Fiji. So here are some photos of the event where about 100,000 people attended. We raised a few thousand dollars towards our project to help Fiji. Isa, our former President, Rev Peceli Ratawa is no longer with us as he had energised the group for over twenty years in participation at Pako. The next generation have taken over this reponsibility now.
IMAGES of destruction across an island paradise have hit home for Newcomb’s George and Letila Ratawa.
The Geelong couple migrated from Fiji more than five years ago and have been horrified by television bulletins and conversations with relatives relaying the impact of Cyclone Winston.
The category-five cyclone belted the island nation last weekend, leaving more than 40 dead and forcing 8000 people to evacaution centres.
Mrs Ratawa comes from the island of Yacata and her family had two houses in the village, both of which were destroyed.
The Fiji Geelong Friendship Club is appealing for donations and will take its appeal to the streets during Pako Fest on Saturday.
“Cyclone Winston is the worst cyclone to appear in the Southern Hemisphere on record,” Mr Ratawa said. “A lot of Fijian homes are prepared for cyclones, even big cyclones, but nothing like this latest one. It was absolutely massive.
“There’s huge devastation and my wife’s community was badly hit. Some of the other guys here (in the club) are from communities that have been completely wiped out.”
Corio MP Richard Marles has met with Mr Ratawa and said Australia needed to support its island neighbour in its hour of need.
“There’s more than 40 people dead and the death toll continues to climb,” he said. “Fiji is a strong nation but Cyclone Winston is the biggest cyclone to ever hit on record, so these are very testing times for Fiji and our generosity is much needed at this time.”