Supporting one another in times of crisis

The first day milling for the Mill for Malo team.

Thanks to a Te Puke-based charity, local seasonable works from Vanuatu and the Bay of Plenty’s horticulture industry one Northern Vanuatu island is rebuilding after a cyclone ripped through in April.

Amid the global Coronavirus pandemic, when many countries were in lockdown, Tropical Cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction across the Pacific – including Vanuatu.

Photos that have surfaced paint a grim reality for many islands and communities in Northern Vanuatu – some medical centres were left in ruins and many people have been left without food and are relying on aid packages.

Today, the Northern Vanuatu island is Malo is seeing community buildings being rebuilt after Te Puke  charity Fruit of the Pacific began working directly with kiwifruit seasonal workers from Vanuatu to deploy a sawmill to the affected island.

Fruit of the Pacific CEO Kylie Dellabarca Steel says it’s a challenging environment to deliver and distribute relief and rebuild aid.

Vanuatu currently has no reported cases of COVID-19. But Fruit of the Pacific has found a way to lend a hand from afar. They are getting behind The Mill for Malo project.

This is led by an EastPack RSE worker, Joe Iautu, who has managed a sawmill programme for the last five years.

Milling timber

Kylie says in early-May, Joe and his team were deployed by Vanuatu’s National Disaster Management Office to Malo to support their nation in a time of need.

The Mill for Malo team is milling fallen timber and providing that free of charge to the communities so they can rebuild schools, kindergartens, medical clinics, churches and marketplaces.

Te Puke-based companies Baygold and EastPack, as well as their RSE staff from Vanuatu, were quick to partner with the project.

“They have provided donations supporting the first three weeks of milling costs, a full repairs and maintenance kit as well as the reconnaissance trip for Joe to identify communities and rebuild projects,” says Kylie.

The sawmill team have started on projects for two local schools on the west coast of Malo. One of those schools is Najariwelu School. The classrooms were destroyed by the tropical cyclone, one of them being completely flattened.

But now the schools leadership team has plans to rebuild the two destroyed classrooms, three school auxiliary rooms and one teacher’s house.

To start with, the Mill for Malo team milled and delivered more than 280 lineal metres of wood to begin the rebuild of this school.

Make a donation

“During their time on Malo, the team hope to serve between five to 10 communities and provide them with a much-needed rebuild resource,” says Kylie.

She says the swift support from the kiwifruit industry for this project highlights the incredible relationships built through the RSE scheme.

“They are strong and tangible community-to-community partnerships and there is a real commitment to supporting one another in times of crisis and disaster.”

Fruit of the Pacific is putting out a call for donations from the public, saying 100 per cent of funds raised will cover operational and travel costs of the sawmill team.

It’s estimated it will cost approximately $1500 per week for sawmill operations to be delivered in communities. This includes wages for an operations team of four-five men, fuel, running costs, travel costs, accommodation and food. The hope is to raise $15,000 to cover 10 weeks.

Donations will help make the milling and provision of timber completely free for affected communities, says Kylie.

To donate, visit their Givealittle at:


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