Saunaka village is one of the largest communities in Nadi, 5 minutes’ drive away from Nadi Town and home to more than 1000 people. While it is nestled in land making it safer from the wraths of strong winds from cyclones and hurricanes, its location in the low-lying plains of Nadi River makes it prone to severe flooding which usually causes severe damages.
Since 2009, major flooding in the area has become a worry as the villagers flee their homes for safety. The church has always been their go to place thus they have invested in building a bigger church to cater for them during times of disasters.
“We had major floods from the years 2009 to 2012, and only one flood after that. The church was used as an evacuation centre as the community hall is at a lower level. The church has been rebuilt twice, the first church was smaller and thus the EC was smaller compared to the church now,” Village headman Apisai Toga said.
Mr. Toga also revealed the difficulties they often face during the evacuation process and more vulnerable to the situation are the people with disabilities.
“In moving people to the EC, we had to tie ropes from one Uto (breadfruit) tree to the church and send people across the flood waters. We had to lift wheelchairs up the church stairs.”
But he is thankful to CANDO and ADRA Fiji for the retrofitting works conducted improving access for people with disabilities and elderly under the Australian Humanitarian Partnership.
“To date we have about 5 persons of disabilities and with the building of the ramp we might see them come to church often and will be very useful during evacuations as well for the elderly.”
He said that with the new feature in the church, awareness will be created in village meetings (bose vanua, bose va koro and mataqali) on the use of the ramp for persons of disabilities and the elderly.