Story by Salote Maramaciriciri, Fiji Red Cross Society
Two months after Cyclone Winston, Timoci*, a prisoner sitting in Suva Remand Centre, Fiji, was getting worried. He knew there had been deaths from the category 5 cyclone and he had still not heard from any of his family members.
Talking to a visiting International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) protection delegate, he found out he could write a message to his family about their health and well-being after the cyclone and the Fiji Red Cross Society could hand-deliver it.
One hundred kilometres away, Jone was at home in Tailevu when he answered a knock at the door to find a Fiji Red Cross volunteer. She was holding a piece of paper which she told him was a message from his uncle.
“He invited me in and we sat down. When he read it he smiled, and half laughed. He couldn’t believe his uncle had written a Red Cross message because it’s an unusual thing for people to do this in Fiji,” the volunteer says.
“He said thank you, and he read it and smiled again. I asked him if there was anything he wanted to say in reply and he wrote back thanking his uncle, saying they were all safe and well and that he was going to come and visit him soon.”
Jone says the last time he saw his uncle was when he visited him before Cyclone Winston. “Ever since, it has been hard to visit due to transportation and because I’ve been trying to get things sorted at home with the family,” Jone says.
“We were thinking of my uncle when the cyclone hit. My family was too late to get to the evacuation centre so we all curled up in the corner of our home and listened to the wind whistling outside. The next day we found out one of our aunties had died when the winds blew her house 20 metres up in the air and she was trapped under the remains of their house. We buried her the next morning,” he says.
“Thank you to Red Cross for bringing this message from my uncle. I am happy to hear he is safe and well.”
A Red Cross message is one way for people to share family news when normal means of communication have been disrupted by conflict, migration or natural disaster. The global Red Cross and Red Crescent network ensures that the message is delivered in-person, and only to the recipient it is addressed to. Facilitating the exchange of hundreds of thousands of messages every year, this free Red Cross message service helps families across the world to have news of their loved ones when crisis strikes.
*All names have been changed for privacy reasons.